C’mon Nats fans, you knew this sneak preview would end eventually.
Though the Nationals didn’t include last year’s No.1 overall pick Bryce Harper in their first round of cuts yesterday, he was sent to low-Class A Hagerstown following this afternoon’s win over the Yankees, according to Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com.
The Nationals insisted that Harper had no chance to make the team out of spring training, so today’s news doesn’t come as a surprise. Still, the 18-year-old hitting sensation was pretty impressive in limited action. After striking out twice on just seven pitches in his Grapefruit League debut against the Mets, Harper went 7-for-16 with three doubles and five RBI. He was hit by a pitch in his only at-bat against the Yankees this afternoon.
According to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo hasn’t ruled out Harper playing in the majors this season, but the most likely scenario is that he arrives as a September call-up.
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.