Albert Pujols plays field, declares himself ready for opener

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Albert Pujols played first base Tuesday for the first time in this year’s Cactus League and reported no issues with his surgically-repaired right knee.

Pujols got pulled after five innings and was never really tested on defense, but the slugger told USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale after his day was through that he is feeling good and fully expects to be in the Angels’ lineup for the regular-season opener on April 1 against the Reds. It’s at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati — where Pujols was a .316/.404/.598 career hitter during his time with the Cardinals.

Pujols was 0-for-2 at the plate in Tuesday’s 6-1 loss to the Brewers, but he still boasts a .313 batting average in eight spring games. He posted the worst OPS (.859) and OPS+ (141) of his career in 2012 with Anaheim.

The Angels still owe the 33-year-old first baseman a whopping $228 million.

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.