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NEW YORK — The Astros hit Masahiro Tanaka hard through the first two innings Thursday night in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series and had nothing to show for it. In the third inning, they cashed in when another one of those rockets from George Springer cleared the left-field fence at Yankee Stadium for a three-run home run that spotted Houston a 3-1 lead.

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Game Date Time Matchup/
Result TV/
Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 12 NYY 7, HOU 0 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 13 HOU 3, NYY 2 (11) Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 15 HOU 4, NYY 1 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 17 LIVE HOU vs. NYY FS1
Gm 5 Oct. 18 7 p.m. HOU vs. NYY FS1
*Gm 6 Oct. 19 8 p.m. NYY vs. HOU FS1
*Gm 7 Oct. 20 7:30 p.m. NYY vs. HOU FS1
*- If necessary | All times ET
shop Shop for postseason gear: Astros | Yankees
• Postseason schedule and bracket
The blast was Springer’s 13th career postseason homer, again setting an Astros club record. As was the case before, that record might not stand for long — Springer shared the mark with teammate José Altuve, who went deep in Game 3 for his 12th career postseason homer.

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NEW YORK – Astros manager AJ Hinch took offense to the notion his team was using whistles to steal signs in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees on Saturday at Minute Maid Park. Major League Baseball investigated the accusations levied by the Yankees and has cleared the Astros of any wrongdoing.

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That didn’t stop Hinch on Thursday from blasting those responsible for the allegations, which suggested someone in Houston’s dugout was whistling to batters to alert them of which pitch was coming. He said those who believe the Astros have been cheating should come forward publicly. Hinch said the allegations are “a joke.”

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“It made me laugh because it’s ridiculous,” he said. “And had I known that it would take something like that to set off the Yankees or any other team, we would have practiced it in Spring Training. It apparently works, even when it doesn’t happen. So to me, I understand the gamesmanship. I understand kind of creating a narrative for yourself or wondering how things are going.”

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Game Date Time Matchup/
Result TV/
Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 12 NYY 7, HOU 0 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 13 HOU 3, NYY 2 (11) Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 15 HOU 4, NYY 1 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 17 LIVE HOU vs. NYY FS1
Gm 5 Oct. 18 7 p.m. HOU vs. NYY FS1
*Gm 6 Oct. 19 8 p.m. NYY vs. HOU FS1
*Gm 7 Oct. 20 7:30 p.m. NYY vs. HOU FS1
*- If necessary | All times ET
shop Shop for postseason gear: Astros | Yankees

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Yankees manager Aaron Boone understands that pitch-tipping and sign-stealing are part of the game, and that everyone tries to gain whatever advantage they can — within reason.

“Sure, there’s boundaries,” Boone said. “Yeah. We could have a conversation for days on that. So, yeah, there’s boundaries. There’s things you’re not allowed to do and things that are perfectly within the context of the game. So, yeah.”

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Hinch pointed out the Astros had only three hits in Game 1, a 7-0 loss, which isn’t really indicative of an offense having an edge. Also, he said nobody has come forward with any audio evidence that any whistling took place near the dugout.

“The problem I have is when other people take shots at us outside this competition,” Hinch said. “When you guys ask me this question, my face, my name is by my quotes. My opinions, my reaction is all for you guys to tweet out and put on the broadcast. But we have people that are unnamed, or you guys have sources that are giving you information. I suggest they put their name by it if they’re so passionate about it, to comment about my team or my players.

“There’s nothing going on other than the competition on the field. The fact that I had to field the question before a really, really cool game at Yankee Stadium is unfortunate. But we can put it to rest. That will be the last question I answer about pitch-tipping or pitch-stealing.”

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The Astros have picked up some pitch-tipping cues at least once in the playoffs, but that’s considered gamesmanship in the context of the sport. Tyler Glasnow of the Rays said he was tipping his pitches in a Game 5 loss to the Astros in the AL Division Series. Houston appeared to have picked up some cues in Game 2 from Yankees starter James Paxton, but Paxton says there was no evidence he was tipping pitches.

Paxton on tipping pitches, Game 5
Paxton on tipping pitches, Game 5
01:31
4:54 PM EDT
“Pitch-tipping is a little bit of a different story,” Hinch said. “If you don’t want us to know the pitch is coming, don’t do something that demonstrates what pitch you’re going to pitch or what you’re going to throw. But they’re doing the same thing. Every hitter wants to know what’s coming by virtue of what a pitcher is doing or not doing.”

For his part, Boone does not believe Paxton was tipping his pitches in Game 2.

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“We’re confident that we’re buttoned up in a lot of ways, and I’m not really — I really don’t think it’s much of an issue,” he said.

Allegations of cheating have followed the Astros in recent years. The Indians filed a complaint following Game 3 of last year’s ALDS after an Astros employee was observed aiming his phone at the Indians’ dugout and taking pictures. MLB later said the Astros were conducting surveillance and not spying. Earlier in 2018, Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer suggested Astros pitchers were increasing spin rates by using foreign substances such as pine tar.

“I mean, it sucks for our players, because those guys are so talented,” said Astros pitcher Justin Verlander, who said he will employ multiple signs when he starts Game 5 on Friday night. “And I don’t think anything should take away from what they’re able to accomplish. And so, in that aspect, it’s disappointing. But I think we know what’s going on there. Look at what we’re getting accused of. How many runs did we score in that first game? But I understand where the paranoia comes from. We have it. I have it.”

Three innings later, Houston took a commanding 6-1 lead with a three-run homer by Carlos Correa, the walk-off hero of Game 2, off Chad Green. Correa’s homer, 109.5 mph off the bat, was hit with a launch angle of 17 degrees, tied for the Astros’ lowest over-the-wall homer of 2019.

Correa’s 3-run homer
Correa’s 3-run homer
00:06
10:35 PM EDT
Springer lined out against Tanaka to lead off the game, a ball that came off the bat at 107.8 mph, per Statcast. Springer then clubbed the home run on a splitter — the second straight splitter he saw in the at-bat — that hung over the heart of the plate. The homer carried a Statcast-projected 408 feet and left the bat at 109.8 mph.

The swing also represented a significant breakthrough for the Astros against Tanaka, who was charged with three runs in a postseason start for the first time in his career. Tanaka’s streak of seven postseason starts with two or fewer runs allowed represented a Major League record, and he entered the game with the second-lowest postseason ERA among starting pitchers (1.32) since earned runs became an official stat in 1912.

Five of the first six batted balls by Houston’s lineup before the homer were hit with an exit velocity of at least 91.0 mph, including three in excess of 100 mph. The only weakly hit ball had been Josh Reddick’s 73.7 mph single in the third inning, which followed a leadoff walk by Robinson Chirinos to set up Springer’s blast.

The Astros continued the rally with a pair of singles from Altuve and Michael Brantley, and two runners moved into scoring position before two flyouts allowed Tanaka to escape without any more damage.

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The Los Angeles Angels could face significant sanctions if Major League Baseball determines that team employees were told of Tyler Skaggs’ opioid use prior to his July 1 death and didn’t inform the commissioner’s office.

Eric Kay, currently on paid leave as the Angels’ communications director, told federal drug enforcement agents last month that two team employees, including his former supervisor, Tim Mead, were informed of Skaggs’ drug use but did not take action. Two sources familiar with the DEA investigation told Outside the Lines about Kay’s statements to federal agents, which Kay’s attorney, Michael Molfetta, then confirmed.

Under MLB policy, any team employee who isn’t a player is obligated to inform the commissioner’s office of “any evidence or reason to believe that a Player … has used, possessed or distributed any substance prohibited” by MLB.

The policy says commissioner Rob Manfred could fine the club up to $2 million, and it gives him discretion to suspend an employee or ban him or her from MLB for life. An MLB source told Outside the Lines that Manfred’s office never received such notification about Skaggs. MLB officials declined to comment.

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Angels reps aware of Skaggs’ drug use, DEA told

Angels’ Kay: Talking to feds is ‘right thing’

Sources: Skaggs’ death subject of DEA probe
Despite Kay’s statements to federal agents, an Angels spokesperson said Saturday that the team was never aware of Skaggs’ drug use.

“We have never heard that any employee was providing illegal narcotics to any player, or that any player was seeking narcotics from him,” Angels spokesperson Marie Garvey said in Custom Los Angeles Angels Nike Jerseys a statement Tuesday. “The current and former employees that are being accused of knowing this behavior have categorically denied that assertion. The Angels maintain a strict, zero tolerance policy regarding the illicit use of drugs for both players and staff. Every one of our players must also abide by the MLB joint drug agreement.”

When asked why the statement doesn’t address that Kay, the team’s communications director, was an employee who knew of Skaggs’ use and didn’t report it to the league, Garvey declined further comment.

In addition to a potential ban from baseball, Kay could face criminal charges after admitting to authorities that he provided Skaggs with oxycodone for years and sometimes snorted crushed pills with the pitcher.

Skaggs was found dead in his Southlake, Texas, hotel room July 1, having asphyxiated on vomit. He was 27. An autopsy found oxycodone, fentanyl and alcohol in his system.

Kay’s addiction is long-standing, his family and attorney have said. His mother, Sandy, told Outside the Lines that her son started abusing opioids a few years after his father died in 1998.

Kay told DEA agents that in 2015, the two men worked out an arrangement in which Skaggs would give Kay money to buy oxycodone for both of them, and Kay would obtain pills from a dealer.

Kay told agents that he told Mead in 2017 that Skaggs used opioids. In addition, Kay told investigators about a second Angels official who knew of Skaggs’ use. Kay’s mother and his wife, Camela, told Outside the Lines that on April 22, while Eric was in the hospital following an overdose, he received a text from Skaggs seeking drugs. Sandy was visiting her son in the hospital at the time, alongside his wife and Mead. Sandy told Outside the Lines she saw the texts and told Mead that the team needed to intervene.

Mead left the team in June to become the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He told Outside the Lines on Saturday that neither Eric Kay, his family nor anyone else ever told him that Skaggs used opioids.

A source familiar with MLB policy said that Manfred’s office has only media accounts to go on right now and will have to make a judgment as to whether Mead or Kay and his family are telling the truth. The source would not speculate on how much the Angels could be fined, but said it would be “more serious” if someone high up in the organization had been told.

The source said MLB is not currently conducting its own investigation and is instead waiting for the DEA to finish. The source also said Angels officials and attorneys are not sharing information with Manfred’s office because they are concerned that such communications could be subpoenaed by the government.

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The New York Yankees officially removed CC Sabathia from the roster for the American League Championship Series on Friday, replacing him with right-handed reliever Ben Heller.

Sabathia would not be eligible to return should the Yankees get to the World Series, so the 39-year-old left-hander has made his final appearance in pinstripes.

Sabathia’s knee buckled and his shoulder seemed to give out as he tried to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning of the Houston Astros’ 8-3 win in Game 4 of the ALCS on Thursday night. He walked off the mound toward second, spoke with head athletic trainer Steve Donohue and tried a warm-up toss, hoping somehow to push through, but he had to leave.

Fans chanted Sabathia’s name as he limped off the field with tears in his eyes. He already had announced that he would retire after the season.

“I think that’s what got me more emotional than [the] actual injury,” Sabathia said during a pregame media session Friday afternoon. “Just hearing the fans and the way that they were cheering me and it was just — it makes me feel good. Makes me feel like I made the right choice 11 years ago [to sign with the Yankees]. I love these fans. I love this organization.”

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The Yankees said Sabathia suffered a subluxation — or partial dislocation — of his left shoulder joint.

“I told [my wife] Amber last night that this was the best way for it to end for me, because of the way I’ve been feeling, loving the bullpen, jogging out, feeling pretty good,” he said. “I feel like about July of next year I’ll be like, ‘I think I can pitch.’ So knowing that obviously the way I feel now I can’t — I think it’s just kind of fitting. I threw until I couldn’t anymore.”

Sabathia and outfielder Brett Gardner are the two remaining members of the Yankees’ 2009 World Series championship team.

“It’s tough, man. He’s a great person, a great player,” outfielder Aaron Hicks said of Sabathia. “He’s gonna be a Hall of Famer. To see a guy like that go out like that is not the way you want to see it. He means a lot to this team, a lot to his organization, and for him to go out like that, it’s not something you want.”

“To see a guy like that go out like that is not the way you want to see it,” Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks said of CC Sabathia. AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Left-handed reliever Zack Britton, who spent eight seasons with the Baltimore Orioles before being traded to New York last year, reiterated the reputation Sabathia carries throughout the league.

“I played against CC longer than I’ve played with him, so I know the respect that opposing teams have for him,” Britton said. “He’s done it in the game, but Custom Baltimore Orioles Nike Jerseys obviously off the field too. He’s really respected throughout the game, and guys know the type of career he’s had.”

A six-time All-Star and the 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner with Cleveland, Sabathia finished with a 251-161 regular-season record with 3,093 strikeouts. He had made four trips to the injured list this year due to his balky right knee, but even through injury Sabathia said he always felt in control of the game.

“I always felt like being the pitcher of the game stopped and started on me,” Sabathia said Friday. “And I kind of felt like I was in control all the time and that was just the best part about it is 50,000 people in the Bronx and s— don’t start until I’m ready. So that was the best part.”

Heller had a 1.23 ERA and nine strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings for the Yankees this season after returning from Tommy John surgery.