Brett Lawrie withdraws from 2013 World Baseball Classic because of left rib cage injury

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Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca has the breaking news:

The Toronto Blue Jays expect Brett Lawrie to be ready for opening day, but a mild strain near the third baseman’s 10th rib and left intercostal muscle forced him to withdraw from Canada’s entry to the World Baseball Classic on Friday.

Lawrie, a native of Langley, British Columbia, suffered the injury Wednesday during Team Canada’s 12-2 exhibition loss to the Reds.

“Hopefully it’s two weeks,” Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said Thursday. “He’s been through it. He said what he had last year was 10 times worse than this, but he knows. … Obviously there was something there and he was smart. He felt something going to his left on a ground ball and something on a swing.”

Lawrie, 23, has hit .278/.336/.446 with 20 homers and 73 RBI in his first 168 major league games.

Team Canada is expected to replace him at the hot corner with the Brewers’ Taylor Green.

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.