Yankees interested in free agent infielder Jeff Keppinger

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According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, the Yankees have renewed their “longstanding interest” in free agent infielder Jeff Keppinger. The Yankees have Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix on their roster, but they are currently seeking a veteran infielder who can play third base and fill in at shortstop with Derek Jeter coming off ankle surgery.

Keppinger isn’t a perfect fit for the role described by Rosenthal, as he hasn’t played shortstop since 2010 as a member of the Astros, but the Yankees have tried to acquire him on two previous occasions. The 32-year-old batted .325/.367/.439 with nine home runs, 40 RBI and an .806 OPS in 115 games with the Rays this past season while making starts at first base, second base and the hot corner.

At the very least, Keppinger would fill the void left by free agent Eric Chavez, who filled in at third base and first base at various points this year. Rosenthal has heard some scuttlebutt that the Yankees may be “laying the groundwork” to use Rodriguez as their primary designated hitter next season, but general manager Brian Cashman has refuted any such claims.

“There is no discussion whatsoever about Alex transitioning from third base to DH, part-time DH, first base or any other position on the field,” Cashman said.

“As we approach anyone in the free-agent market or anyone in trades, we’re making sure we have insurance policies, (asking) our what-ifs?”

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier this week that the Yankees could consider free agent Stephen Drew for a super-sub role while Rosenthal speculates that free agent Marco Scutaro and Tigers’ shortstop Jhonny Peralta could also fit the bill.

Astros clinch AL West for third consecutive year

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For the third consecutive season, the Astros are AL West champions. The ‘stros clinched the division on Sunday afternoon with a convincing 13-5 win over the Angels. They were backed by three homers from leadoff man George Springer and individual homers from Alex Bregman and Aledmys Díaz.

Springer has the 22nd three-homer game in baseball this season. He’s the first Astro to hit three homers in a game since Yordan Álvarez last month, on August 10.

Justin Verlander lasted five innings in Sunday’s start, yielding two runs on six hits and a pair of walks with five strikeouts. The right-hander is arguably the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award, now 20-6 with a 2.53 ERA and a 288/42 K/BB ratio in 217 innings on the year. Verlander is 12 strikeouts shy of the 300-strikeout milestone and six strikeouts short of 3,000 for his career. If the Astros stay on schedule, Verlander would pitch the second-to-last game of the regular season against the Angels.

Sunday’s win marked No. 102 on the season for the Astros. The franchise record is 103 wins set last year. With six games remaining, it seems likely the Astros will set a new record.

The Astros and Yankees both won on Sunday, meaning the Astros remain a half-game ahead in the race for home field advantage. The No. 1 seed will also have the privilege of playing the Wild Card winner, which is down to the Athletics, Rays, and Indians.