Johjima returns to Japan with $21 million deal

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Kenji Johjima did the Mariners a huge favor last week by simply walking away from the final two years and $16 million on his contract, but it turns out that he had more money waiting for him back in Japan.
Prior to signing with the Mariners in 2006 he spent a decade starring for the Softbank Hawks and Johjima talked to his former team about returning before ultimately agreeing to a four-year, $21 million deal with the Hanshin Tigers.
Everything worked out well for Johjima, who trades a backup role and $16 million in Seattle for a starting job and $21 million in Japan, but the Mariners are even bigger winners by clearing his salary off the books. For now prospect Adam Moore is penciled in as their starting catcher, but he’ll get competition from either Rob Johnson or a veteran acquired this offseason.

Astros clinch postseason berth with 11-3 win over Angels

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No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.

First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.

On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.

Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.