Howie Kendrick tested his injured hamstring by running and fielding grounders earlier this week, but he hasn’t played since May 19 and today the Angels finally placed him on the disabled list.
To fill Kendrick’s roster spot the Angels have signed free agent Russell Branyan, who was released by the Diamondbacks last week after being passed on the depth chart by Juan Miranda.
Branyan tends not to stay in one place for very long because teams get frustrated with his huge strikeout totals, but the guy can hit and with Kendry Morales out for the season and the .322-hitting Kendrick now sidelined too the Angels can certainly use some more power in the lineup.
Branyan has an .816 OPS with 35 homers per 500 at-bats for his career and can be particularly productive if spotted primarily versus right-handed pitching. He could form a platoon with the right-handed-hitting Mark Trumbo at first base or spend most of his time at designated hitter, with Bobby Abreu shifting to left field instead of the Reggie Willits-Alexi Amarista platoon.
And if manager Mike Scioscia really wants to get crazy Branyan has over 2,400 career innings at third base and another 1,500 innings in an outfield corner, so he brings some useful versatility along with a bat that produced 25 homers in 376 at-bats last year and 31 homers in 431 at-bats in 2009.
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.