Baseball: Astros down Yankees, set World Series clash with Dodgers

Jose Altuve (27) of the Houston Astros celebrates with Alex Bregman (2), Marwin Gonzalez (9) and Carlos Correa (1) after defeating the New York Yankees of the American League Championship Series. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2017
0

Baseball: Astros down Yankees, set World Series clash with Dodgers

LOS ANGELES: The Houston Astros defeated the New York Yankees 4-0 on Saturday to book a Major League Baseball World Series showdown with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After fending off elimination in game six on Friday, the Astros won the best-of-seven American League Championship Series four-games-to-three to reach the World Series for the second time in club history.
Evan Gattis and Jose Altuve homered for the Astros, who had won the first two games of the series at home before dropping three straight in New York.
Charlie Morton pitched five strong innings for the Astros, who were swept by the Chicago White Sox in their only prior World Series appearance, back in 2005 when they played in the National League.
“So far we have one more series to get the ultimate prize,” said Astros Manager A.J. Hinch, whose team opens the World Series in Los Angeles on Tuesday. “But there’s two teams left standing, and I don’t care what cities they’re from, one of them is from Houston.”
Gattis opened the scoring with a solo homer off Yankees starter CC Sabathia in the fourth inning.
Altuve’s homer in the bottom of the fifth sparked a three-run frame against Yankees relief pitcher Tommy Kahnle, who also surrendered a two-run double to Astros catcher — and former Yankee — Brian McCann.
Relief pitcher Lance McCullers pitched the final four innings and kept the Yankees at bay to seal the victory.
“These guys came out throwing strikes, quality strikes,” Hinch said. “They executed a great game plan.”
Morton gave up only two hits with one walk and five strikeouts.
After taking the loss in game three in New York, Morton attacked the strike zone early, needing only 28 pitches over the first three innings. That included 22 strikes.
He retired the side in order in the top of the fourth.
But after Gattis’ homer in the bottom of the fourth, Morton needed some help preserving the one-run margin in the top of the fifth — when the Yankees’ Greg Bird led off with a double.
Bird reached third on a wild pitch walk to Aaron Hicks. He tried to score on Todd Frazier’s ground ball to third, but Astros third baseman Alex Bregman charged to collect the ball and delivered a spot-on throw to McCann, who made the tag to retire Bird.
Pitcher Justin Verlander, traded to the Astros by the Detroit Tigers on August 31, was named Most Valuable Player of the ALCS after notching two wins — including in Friday’s game six to fend off elimination.
“Although our offense kind of floundered a little bit early in the series, we still managed to win baseball games,” Verlander said. “And later in the series our bats came alive and we won games with our offense and pitching.”
“We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series,” Verlander added, “and I do not regret my decision to come here.”
Yankees starter Sabathia, who pitched six scoreless innings in the Yankees’ game-three triumph, stranded five base runners over the first three innings and didn’t make it out of the fourth.
Aaron Judge, the rookie slugger who emerged as a star for the Yankees in his first major league season, made another stellar outfield catch to deny the Astros an early run.
But when he came to the plate with a runner on in the top of the eighth McCullers struck him out.
“There are things we need to get better on, and that will be a focus,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I’m extremely proud of this group, what they’ve accomplished up to this point, but I think there’s more.”


Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo's toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

Updated 20 July 2018
0

Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo's toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

  • Portuguese superstar has moved to Italian giants in deal worth nearly $120 million
  • Ronaldo scored 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid

LONDON: Love him or loathe him, you have to admire Cristiano Ronaldo’s character.
At a time of life when lesser mortals are lured by big paychecks to the likes of Qatar or China, the mercurial Madeiran has opted for what will be his biggest challenge yet at Juventus.
His career over the last decade has been played out under the cloud of the never-ending debate — “Ronaldo or Messi; who is better?”
Thankfully, that circus was quietened somewhat at the recent World Cup. Some flashes of pure brilliance aside, neither player made a big enough impact to lead their respective teams to glory and Messi’s wait for an international trophy goes on.
And, while both players are undeniably in a league of their own, the fact Ronaldo does have a European Championship title under his belt will always tip the argument toward the Portuguese — especially for those who measure greatness in statistics and trophies.
In fairness, Ronaldo’s statistics are mind-boggling. His stint at Manchester United, where he cut his teeth and started to show his potential as a great of the game, was instrumental in the club winning three Premier League titles and their third European crown. His staggering 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid saw him become the Spanish giant’s record goalscorer on his way to winning everything under the sun.
But the Premier League and La Liga are leagues in which attacking footballers flourish. With the dawning of wall-to-wall TV coverage, they have both been transformed to entertain the billions of people who tune in every week — and in this day and age, goalscoring superstars win you fans, not defenses.
The art of defending has all-but disappeared and the culture of building a spine through a team has slowly but surely been eroded away. Nobody wants to watch an engrossing, absorbing, end-to-end goalless draw anymore — it is all about 6-5 thrillers.
But not so in Italy.
Serie A, for all its scandals and fall from grace since its heady days of the 1990s, is still an extremely difficult league to win. It is a league in which fans and managers place great emphasis on defending, on building teams from back-to-front (not the other way around) and on the mentality of “you cannot lose if you don’t concede.”
Granted, Juventus have walked Serie A for the past seven seasons; it is to be expected from one of the richest clubs in the world. But rarely have they won it at a canter. Never once have they scored anywhere near 100 goals in a season to win it — unlike Manchester City in last season’s Premier League, or Barcelona and Real Madrid almost every season in the same period.
And not once has Serie A’s top-goalscorer reached the dizzying heights Ronaldo (and Messi) hit in La Liga season after season, nor has it always been a Juventus player claiming the golden boot.
This all points to a monumental challenge for Ronaldo. On paper, he should not find it as easy to score goals in Serie A and with the marked improvement of Napoli, Roma and Lazio recently, nor will it be an easy ride for Juventus to claim an eighth scudetto in a row this year.
So, while Messi prefers to stay in one country and within his comfort zone of the defense-shy Spanish league, if a 30-something Ronaldo succeeds in Italy — or, better yet, guides Juventus to the European glory the fans crave so much — it would be his most remarkable achievement yet.
And it would put the tiresome debate over who is the greatest ever to bed, once and for all.
No contest.