Hunter Pence is going to be back with the Giants in 2013

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Pop quiz, hot shot!

You traded for an outfielder in the middle of the year who often looked helpless at the plate. He was a nice guy and had character, though, serving as a great cheerleader. And hey, you won the friggin’ World Series, so it’s not like his presence in the lineup every day harmed you that much. He’s arbitration eligible now is gonna make $13-15 million next season.  What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?

San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean can guarantee that outfielder Hunter Pence will be back with the team in 2013 … “Pence is going to be coming back,” Sabean said at the general managers’ meetings. “We think there are some things he can do to fix what went wrong this year. We like the player. We made a big trade to get him, and he’s going to be a Giant next year.”

The sub-par-for-him production in 2012 is kind of scary for a player who will make that kind of money, but I can see the argument for keeping him.

It’s a devil-you-know situation and a play for upside.  Sure, you may end wildly overpaying for a guy who has no business playing a corner for a contender, but what’s the alternative? What replacement is available out there at the moment who you know can fill that role?

Josh Hamilton is not coming to San Francisco. I suppose Torii Hunter and Nick Swisher are possibilities, but you’re talking multi-year deals that will likely be higher than their worth given the dearth of talent on the free agent market this year. And really, the Giants have not played in that sandbox too much in recent years. Beyond that you have, who, Ryan Ludwick? Melky? Ichiro?

The Giants are betting that Pence can snap back to 2011 form. If he does that, or comes close to it, he’ll come close to justifying that arbitration number (or whatever close to it the sides can negotiate). If not, it’s just a one-year gamble, not a multi-year gamble. I can’t say I blame them for doing it.

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.