What’s gotten into the Padres?

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The Padres last night started their fourth options at first base and catcher, their third options at third base and in left field and their backup second baseman, yet scored nine more runs in a win over the Mets.

Their batting lines by month to date:

April: .211/.293/.308, 14 HR in 27 G
May: .249/.303/.363, 19 HR in 28 G
June: .249/.325/.351, 12 HR in 27 G
July: .223/.290/.316, 11 HR in 27 G
Aug: .292/.349/.454, 7 HR in 11 G

By month, they’ve averaged the following number of runs per game:

April: 2.85
May: 3.93
June: 3.63
July: 3.63
Aug: 6.50

And they’re doing it even though their best hitters from the months of April (Nick Hundley), May (Brad Hawpe) and June (Chase Headley) are all on the disabled list.  They’re also absent team home run and RBI leader Ryan Ludwick, who was sent to the Pirates prior to the trade deadline.

Ludwick may even finish the season as the Padres’ leader in homers and RBI.  He had 11 and 64 before being dealt.  Cameron Maybin is second on the team with six homers, one more than Chris Denorfia and Jesus Guzman.  Headley is second in RBI with 43, but now that he’s on the DL, he’s something of a long shot to overtake Ludwick.  Next best on the team is shortstop Jason Bartlett’s 32.

The Padres, though, are breaking in newcomers with increasingly impressive results.  Guzman has been a revalation at first base after taking over for struggling top prospect Anthony Rizzo.  Kyle Blanks, back from Tommy John surgery, has been red-hot in the outfield.  Luis Martinez, the aforementioned fourth catcher, has driven in nine runs in 11 appearances.  Aaron Cunningham also seems poised to make an impact in a limited role.

None of those guys are locks to turn into quality regulars for the Padres, but Blanks and Cunningham are still young enough to do so and Guzman could at least contribute against lefties going forward.  Maybin and Headley will also be back next year as the foundation of the San Diego lineup.  The team won’t keep scoring runs like this, but the future is looking brighter than it did a month ago.

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.