Javier Vazquez hoping physical therapist can help him find lost velocity

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Earlier this week I wrote about how Javier Vazquez’s significant drop in velocity this season makes him far from a sure thing to bounce back in 2011 simply because he was leaving New York and returning to the National League.

Vazquez apparently feels the same way, because Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post reports that “he’s not sure why his fastball velocity was down” and “is working with a physical therapist” in an attempt to find the lost miles per hour.

Here’s what Vazquez had to say about his average fastball declining from 91.1 mph in 2009 to 88.7 mph this season:

It’s a fact that I had a really tough year last year. I guess I can say that I don’t know what happened to my velocity. I guess I’m at a point in my career now, I’m 34, with a lot of innings in my arm. I want to start working with a physical therapist to do exercises and stretching. I’m going to start doing that as part of my off-season and in-season [program].

Capozzi notes that Vazquez has thrown the second-most innings of any pitcher since 2000 and he certainly wouldn’t be the first pitcher to lose significant velocity in his mid-30s, so while a pre-signing MRI exam reportedly revealed no major issues the Marlins are definitely taking a risk with his one-year, $7 million deal.

On the other hand Vazquez is one season removed from a Cy Young-caliber year with the Braves and smartly noted that the Marlins’ ballpark should play to his strengths, saying: “I’m a fly-ball pitcher and [Atlanta’s] ballpark helped me a lot. Hopefully it’s going to be the same in Miami.”

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.