Some team is going to want Paul Maholm, too

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Ryan Dempster is a human trade rumor and Matt Garza figures to be a popular topic at the deadline as well, but the Cubs may not be done from there; Paul Maholm should intrigue contenders as well.

Look at what he’s done in his last four starts:

June 29: 8 1/3 IP, 0 R, 6/1 K/BB in win over Houston
July 4: 6 IP, 1 R, 5/1 K/BB in win over Atlanta
July 13: 7 IP, 1 R, 5/1 K/BB in win over Arizona
July 19: 8 IP, 1 R, 4/1 K/BB in win over Miami

Three runs in 29 1/3 innings has lowered Maholm’s ERA to 4.09. He has a nifty 1.29 WHIP, and he’s allowed a modest 11 homers in 105 2/3 innings.

Coming off a shoulder strain, no one thought Maholm was worthy of a multiyear deal last winter after the Pirates cut him loose. The Cubs signed the left-hander for $4.75 million with a $6.5 million option for 2013 that appears very likely to be exercised, whether it’s by the Cubs or the team that trades for him.

The Cubs will be more likely to keep Maholm if they trade Garza, but if they can get a replacement capable of stepping right into the rotation, they shouldn’t be afraid to make the move.  While it’s probably a good idea for most non-contenders to have a couple of vets around to eat innings, the Cubs can get through August and September without him and then go looking for the next Maholm in December.

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.