Brad Lidge told Todd Zolecki of MLB.com that he was “pretty pleased” with his 16-pitch appearance in a minor-league game this afternoon, but also admitted afterward that he’s unlikely to be ready for Opening Day following offseason knee and elbow surgeries:
It’s going to be really tough to be ready for the opener. In my mind I’m still shooting for it, but I don’t know if that’s realistic. … I want to be out there as much as I can, but we’ve got a deep bullpen. Obviously, we’ve got guys that can get it down while J.C. [Romero] and I are getting our arm speed back.
If we were on a bubble team and we had to be ready from Day 1 that’s one thing, but I think our team can cover just about anybody at any position for a week or two. That’s the fortunate part of being on a team as good as us.
Lidge estimated that he’ll need to make nine more appearances before being ready for the season and pegged the April 9-11 series against Houston as a more realistic time frame for his debut. Ryan Madson is the favorite to fill the closer role in his absence, although the Phillies may also give Danys Baez some ninth-inning duties after signing him to a two-year, $5.25 deal in January.
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.