Yankees release Russell Branyan

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According to Donnie Collins of the Scranton Times-Tribune, the Yankees have released Russell Branyan.

Don’t feel bad if you forgot Branyan was with the Yankees. I know I did. The veteran slugger hooked on with the Bombers on a minor league deal over the winter, but was limited to just 33 games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season due to, you guessed it, back problems. The 36-year-old was productive when in the lineup, hitting .309/.348/.645 with 11 home runs, 39 RBI and a 1.093 OPS in 33 games, but didn’t play another game after July 6.

The free-swinging Branyan owns a lowly .236 batting average over 14 major league seasons, but he has also amassed 194 home runs and an .814 OPS. However, given his age and constant back issues, we have probably seen the last of him in the big leagues.

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.