You knew this was coming. After taking plenty of heat for his ill-advised comments to Sports Illustrated comparing the scrutiny Bryce Harper faces to that of Jackie Robinson, the Nationals released a statement this evening from director of player development Doug Harris.
Here’s the statement in full, via Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com:
“I’d like to clarify my remarks as they appear in Tom Verducci’s recent Sports Illustrated feature story on Bryce Harper. In talking to Tom, my sole intent was to speak to the scrutiny that Harper faces on a daily basis.
“That said, the hardships that Mr. Robinson endured in/around 1947 were unique and historical in context. While Harper’s current situation is extraordinary by most measures, it pales in comparison to the life of Mr. Robinson, nor will it approach the lasting impact. I regret making this ill-fated correlation.”
Nobody will question that with the internet, Twitter, blogs, smartphones and MiLB.tv, among other sources, we’re going to know more about Harper when (or if) he reaches the majors than probably any prospect before him. Hopefully Harris has learned that he could have supported his larger point (and had a lot less of a headache) without resorting to silly and pointless hyperbole.
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.