Nationals add reliever Chad Durbin on minor-league deal

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Washington wasn’t exactly hurting for bullpen depth, but with so many veteran relievers still looking for homes and willing to sign cheaply Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that the Nationals have signed Chad Durbin to a minor-league deal.

Durbin spent last season in Cleveland and struggled, posting a 5.53 ERA while serving up 12 homers in 68 innings. However, his 59/26 K/BB ratio was still decent and prior to last year he pitched pretty well for the Phillies from 2008-2010.

Drew Storen is the Nationals’ closer and last week they signed Brad Lidge to join Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett as setup men, so Durbin will have to compete with Henry Rodriguez and Ryan Perry for a middle relief role in spring training.

Astros clinch AL West for third consecutive year

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For the third consecutive season, the Astros are AL West champions. The ‘stros clinched the division on Sunday afternoon with a convincing 13-5 win over the Angels. They were backed by three homers from leadoff man George Springer and individual homers from Alex Bregman and Aledmys Díaz.

Springer has the 22nd three-homer game in baseball this season. He’s the first Astro to hit three homers in a game since Yordan Álvarez last month, on August 10.

Justin Verlander lasted five innings in Sunday’s start, yielding two runs on six hits and a pair of walks with five strikeouts. The right-hander is arguably the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award, now 20-6 with a 2.53 ERA and a 288/42 K/BB ratio in 217 innings on the year. Verlander is 12 strikeouts shy of the 300-strikeout milestone and six strikeouts short of 3,000 for his career. If the Astros stay on schedule, Verlander would pitch the second-to-last game of the regular season against the Angels.

Sunday’s win marked No. 102 on the season for the Astros. The franchise record is 103 wins set last year. With six games remaining, it seems likely the Astros will set a new record.

The Astros and Yankees both won on Sunday, meaning the Astros remain a half-game ahead in the race for home field advantage. The No. 1 seed will also have the privilege of playing the Wild Card winner, which is down to the Athletics, Rays, and Indians.