So why was A-Rod kept out of the All-Star Game last night?

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One of the biggest talking points after last night’s All-Star Game was the fact that Joe Girardi did not use Alex Rodriguez. Most notably, that he did not use him to pinch run for David Ortiz, who wound up getting thrown out at second base on a single to the outfield. 

I’ve heard two retorts to this: (1) Girardi was protecting A-Rod’s wonky hip or something and didn’t want him to get hurt on the basepaths in a (mostly) meaningless game; and (2) Since Ortiz didn’t represent the go-ahead or even the tying run, better to save your pinch runner for later.

Taking the second one first: huh?  In that situation all runs up to and including the winning run were critical. If Ortiz is thrown out someplace (which he was), it would dramatically reduce the chances of the tying or go-ahead runs scoring.  Given that there was no player on the American League team more in need of a pinch runner than Ortiz, you have to sub someone in for him.  Maybe not A-Rod — the better bet would have been to save Elvis Andrus or someone for pinch running purposes — but someone, and A-Rod was the only one left.

I’m more prepared to buy the A-Rod’s health thing, but Brian Cashman just took a good chunk out of that argument:

Cashman said that while he had not yet spoken to Joe Girardi today,
he believes that Alex Rodriguez is healthy and that there was no injury
situation that would have kept him out of last night’s All-Star Game.
There were reports that Rodriguez had a sore thumb, but Cashman said
there was “nothing that I know of beyond the daily maintenance stuff.”

Cashman added, “Was he available (to play)? Yes he was.”

Maybe Cashman doesn’t have the best information here — Girardi was in the clubhouse with A-Rod after all — and maybe he’s simply not being 100% honest (why let the opposition know if A-Rod is a little banged up?), but the health explanation still isn’t washing with me.

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.