ALCS Game 7

Astros headed to the World Series after Game 7 win over Yankees!

Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa got the offense going for the Astros in Game 7. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Houston Astros are headed to their first World Series since 2005 and second in franchise history after a Game 7 filled with great pitching, stellar defense, and strong offense to beat the Yankees to win the ALCS and take the American League pennant.

Charlie Morton pitched five shutout innings, Lance McCullers backed that up with four of his own, Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis homer, and Brian McCann drives in two on a huge hit as the Astros shutout the Yankees 4-0 in Game 7 of the ALCS.

Morton started Game 7 with a three-pitch strikeout of Brett Gardner for the first out of the night in the top of the first. Morton followed that with a groundout and another strikeout for a 1-2-3 top of the inning. George Springer hit a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning off of CC Sabathia but became the first stranded batter after three consecutive groundouts end the inning.

Gary Sanchez led off the second inning with a single for the Yankees' first hit, but Morton was able to work around it with a fly out, groundout, and strikeout to end the half inning. In the bottom of the inning, Aaron Judge robbed Yuli Gurriel with an amazing leaping catch as he crashed into the right-field wall for the first out. McCann took a four-pitch walk with two outs, then moved to second on a bloop single by Marwin Gonzalez, but both were left stranded as Josh Reddick continued his hitless streak with a pop out to send the scoreless game to the third.

Morton continued to look strong in the top of the third, getting through the hitless half inning thanks to a couple of great defensive plays behind him from Altuve. Alex Bregman reached on an infield single in the bottom of the inning with one out, then moved to second on a walk to Altuve. Carlos Correa grounded into a fielder's choice for the second out, followed by Gurriel grounding out to leave two on base and keep the game tied 0-0 going into the fourth.

Morton had another quick inning in the top of the fourth, retiring the Yankees in order and finishing his fourth inning with his pitch count at only 36. After an extended at-bat by Gattis against Sabathia to start the bottom of the inning, Gattis won the battle and hit a solo shot to left-center field to put the Astros ahead 1-0 and get the first score of the game. McCann followed with his second walk of the game but was out at second on a fielder's choice by Gonazlez for the first out. Reddick finally got his first hit of the series, putting runners on first and second with one out and ending Sabathia's night. Tommy Kahnle was first out of the bullpen and was able to get a double play on his first pitch to end the inning and take the 1-0 game to the fifth.

Greg Bird led off the fifth with a double to the right-field corner then moved to third on a wild pitch from Morton on ball four to Aaron Hicks, putting runners on first and third with one out. Todd Frazier hit a ground ball to Bregman in the next at-bat which he lasered home just in time to get Bird for the second out and save the run. Morton got Chase Headley to hit a ground ball to Altuve for the big third out to end the threat and preserve the 1-0 lead. Kahnle returned to the mound for the bottom of the fifth but was met with a one-out solo homer from Altuve to extend the Astros lead to 2-0. Correa followed with a single, then moved to third on a single by Gurriel, putting runners on first and third with one out. McCann drove a ball into the right-field corner with two outs, scoring two more runs to make it 4-0 Houston, prompting another call to the bullpen. Adam Warren was out next for the Yankees and was able to get the last out to end the extended inning and send the 4-0 game to the sixth.

A.J. Hinch ended Morton's night after five great, scoreless innings and brought in McCullers to start the top of the sixth. McCullers gave up a leadoff single to Gardner but worked around it by getting the next three batters out. Warren pitched again in the bottom of the inning and put the Astros down in order to keep the game at 4-0 going into the seventh.

Springer made another great grab in center field to lead off the seventh as he leaped over Gonzalez to make the catch on a Bird fly out to the wall. McCullers retired the next two batters to finish the 1-2-3 half inning. David Robertson was next out of the bullpen for the Yankees in the bottom half and worked around a one-out single by Correa to get through the inning.

McCullers looked to be in trouble when he started the eighth with a leadoff walk to Frazier on four pitches but battled back with two strikeouts and a flyout to get the next three batters in order. Robertson came back out for another inning of work for the Yankees and retired the Astros in order to send the game to the ninth still 4-0 in the Astros favor. 

McCullers returned for his fourth inning of work in the top of the ninth and put the Yankees down in order to earn his first career save and complete the 4-0 shutout to send the Astros to the World Series.

World Series Game 1: The World Series will kick off Tuesday, October 24th at 7 PM Central at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and can be seen on Fox. Starting pitchers have not yet been announced. 

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Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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