Daniel Bard walks four in latest Triple-A outing

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It might be time to write off Daniel Bard for the rest of the year.

The 27-year-old righty walked four of the five batters he faced Tuesday in his appearance for Triple-A Pawtucket. He’s walked 10 and giving up eight runs in 4 2/3 innings this month.

Bard was throwing better towards the end of July, allowing just an unearned run and two walks over five innings in his last five appearances of the month. August has been a different story, though. The feeling is that Bard’s struggles are the result of both poor mechanics and a lack of confidence. He hasn’t gone full-on Rick Ankiel, but some of it is mental.

“There were some outings I was really frustrated afterward, and it was like, ‘Where do I go from here?’” Bard said earlier this month. “It kind of gives you that light at the end of the tunnel. I’m healthy, I’ve done this before, I’m going to do it again in the near future.”

Overall, Bard has allowed 24 earned runs in 28 innings for Pawtucket, giving him a 7.71 ERA. He’s struck out 30 and walked 27.

In case you were wondering, Mark Prior, too, is having some control problems at Pawtucket. He’s walked 13 batters in his last nine outings, and his ERA is on the rise. He has a 4.01 ERA and a 38/23 K/BB ratio in 24 2/3 innings over his 18 appearances.

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.