Mariners cut loose arbitration eligible Casey Kotchman

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Last offseason the Mariners acquired Casey Kotchman from the Red Sox, settled on $3.5 million contract to avoid arbitration, and then watched as the first baseman hit .217 with a lowly .280 on-base percentage and .336 slugging percentage in 125 games to rank as one of the worst players in baseball.

He remained under team control as an arbitration eligible player for 2011, but today the Mariners dropped him from the 40-man roster and Kotchman became a free agent by declining an assignment to Triple-A.

Kotchman is a better hitter than he showed this season and remains a very good defensive first baseman, but at this point it’s time to give up any hope of him becoming a starting-caliber hitter.

At age 28 he owns a career line of .259/.326/.392 in over 2,300 plate appearances, which is mediocre for a shortstop and downright awful for a first baseman regardless of the quality of his glove. He may have to settle for a minor-league contract and a chance to compete for a bench job in spring training.

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.