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The Astros could clinch the AL West on Sunday

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A division title wasn’t in the cards for the Astros on Saturday. The team got off to a hot start: Dallas Keuchel fended off the Mariners for five scoreless innings and the offense built a six-run lead, relying on key hits from Derek Fisher, George Springer, Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran to distance themselves from their third-place rivals.

In fact, everything looked hunky-dory until the sixth, when Jean Segura ripped a 1-1 slider into the left field stands to spoil the shutout. Robinson Cano kicked off a four-run rally in the eighth, followed by Mitch Haniger‘s two-out, ninth-inning blast, but in the end, it was too little, too late. Beltran and Reddick returned with a pair of RBI hits to preserve the advantage and Joe Musgrove shut the door in the ninth, battling through a seven-pitch at-bat to catch Cano swinging to end the game.

Just as the Indians needed a Twins’ loss in order to clinch their division, however, the Astros couldn’t secure the AL West on their own. Clinching on Saturday would have necessitated an Angels’ loss to the Rangers — something their division rivals just weren’t willing to do. Parker Bridwell stymied the Rangers’ offense through six strong frames and the bullpen chased his quality start with three innings of no-hit ball to complete the shutout. Justin Upton, meanwhile, supplied the whole of the Angels’ offense with a pair of home runs — his 30th and 31st shots of the season.

With the Angels’ win, the Astros will sit tight until they get another shot to wrap things up on Sunday. It’s not a bad day for clinching, either, with newly-minted ace Justin Verlander set to make his final home start of the regular season. He’ll go up against the Mariners’ Andrew Moore at 2:10 ET as Houston hunts for the sweep and the division title.

Bryce Harper will not be discussing his impending free agency with the media

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Bryce Harper is entering his walk year and it is widely expected that the Scott Boras client will, indeed, test out free agency next fall rather than engage in any substantial way with the Washington Nationals about a contract extension. There were some “casual conversations” between the parties in the early fall of 2017, but the Nats came away from that, quite reasonably, believing that Harper, who stands to land the largest contract in baseball history, will shop around.

For his part, Harper met the media on his first day of spring training workouts and let everyone know that, no, he does not plan to answer questions about his potential free agency every day between now and November. From MASN:

“Just want to let you guys know I will not be discussing anything relative to 2019, at all,” said Harper. “I’m focused on this year. I’m focused on winning and playing hard, like every single year. So if you guys have any questions about anything after 2018, you can call Scott and he can answer you guys.”

Makes sense. The alternative would be for Harper to give the same canned “I’m only focused on our next game” responses in front of his locker 150 times this summer, and that doesn’t serve anyone.

Thinking back to any other impending free agent’s comments about his free agency, I can’t remember a story along those lines which was worth much of anything. The genre generally consists of headlines which oversell an innocuous or offhand comment from a player as a means of guessing where his head is at with respect to his current team. I can’t think of any story in which a player, during his walk year, said something that concretely and definitively signaled his intensions in free agency one way or the other.

Reporters covering the Nationals who are curious as to how Harper feels about his current team at any given time would be better served just observing and inferring, with particular attention paid to how Harper and his teammates view the Nats’ competitive position as the season goes on, how they react to trades and stuff like that. There’s a lot of guesswork in all of that, but it sure beats trying to get a media savvy player like Harper to admit, after going 1-for-4 against the Phillies, where he plans to spend the next seven to ten years of his professional life.