A year ago the Marlins hype was hard to avoid. A new ballpark, new uniforms, a bunch of high-profile signings. Yesterday was the Marlins Winter Warm Up event — formerly known as Fan Fest — and things are … different. From Joe Capozzi in the Palm Beach Post:
And while there was a festive atmosphere today at Marlins Park, the number of fans who attended the annual pre-season event was low. There were just three people in line at the main ticket window at 9:35 a.m. — 25 minutes before single-game tickets went on sale … And at least three people wore protest gear — two fans with anti-Loria shirts and a man who wore a Blue Jays cap to show his opposition to the trade.
Three people wearing protest gear is not the end of the world, obviously. And a lack of fans clamoring for Marlins tickets is not exactly a new phenomenon. But it’s hard to escape the fact that the events of the past year haven’t soured locals on the team more than they already were.
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.