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.
The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.
Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.
With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.
Brewers’ minor league infielder Julio Mendez remains in “critical but stable condition,” club GM David Stearns announced Friday. Back in August, Mendez suffered a cardiac event after he was inadvertently struck by a ball from the Angels’ Austin Krzeminksi during a game between the rookie-level affiliates. The 20-year-old was removed to a Phoenix-area hospital for treatment following the incident and has recently been transferred to a hospital in his native Venezuela.
Mendez was in his fourth season with the Brewers’ organization. He spent the majority of his 2017 run with the rookie-level AZL Brewers, slashing .255/.294/.355 with 10 extra-base hits, 16 RBI and four stolen bases over 119 plate appearances. He currently holds a career .241/.324/.309 batting line, 33 extra bases and a .633 OPS through 668 PA.
Baseball is still on the back burner, however, as Mendez appears to have made little progress nearly a month following the hit by pitch. Thoughts go out to his family during this difficult time.