The Angels may have found their closer in Ernesto Frieri

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Ernesto Frieri was plenty good in a year and a half with the Padres, yet manager Bud Black never seemed to want to trust him in close games. Perhaps that was a mistake.

Frieri struck out the side in the 11th inning to earn his first career save as the Angels beat the A’s 3-1 on Thursday. In nine appearances for the Halos, he’s yet to allow a hit and he’s struck out 19 in 8 2/3 scoreless innings.

Command has always been Frieri’s biggest problem. He did walk a batter today, giving him six walks in his time with the Angels. Overall, he’s walked 62 batters in 117 innings as a major leaguer. However, that comes with a 2.15 ERA and 156 strikeouts.

The Padres couldn’t get past the walks. Last year, Frieri made 59 appearances and picked up a win (1), a loss (2), a hold (4) or a blown save (0) in just seven of them. Mostly, he pitched in games that were already decided. He pitched 14 2/3 scoreless innings in his final 14 appearances of the season, but 10 of those games were losses and the four wins were by 10, six, four and seven runs.

The Angels thus far have found no fault with Frieri. All but one of his nine appearances have come in a win and the one loss he appeared in was a 3-2 game. He’s been flat-out dominant in all of them. For the modest price of Alexi Amarista and Donn Roach, the Angels appear to have found the right-handed reliever they needed, and with Jordan Walden also having turned it around, the bullpen has suddenly become a strength, rather than a weakness. Score one for new GM Jerry DiPoto, who saw plenty of Frieri while with the Diamondbacks.

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.