A pretty depressing take on Albert Pujols from Posnanski today:
Each of the last two seasons, he hit well enough the last four-plus months of the season to end up with strong numbers. Last year, for instance, after May 14 he hit .312/.374/.589 with 42 doubles and 29 homers. You have to believe that he will start hitting again at some point.
But, even assuming he does again find the range, even assuming he has a few more productive years, the truth is that Pujols has entered a different phase of his career. After years of being the best player in baseball, Pujols is now sort of beside the point.
But not an inaccurate one. On the same day that most of the baseball press is lauding Miguel Cabrera as the game’s best hitter, the guy who used to hold that crown is inescapably entering his decline phase. Maybe it’ll be a nice, long, still well-above-average decline phase. I hope it is, but it certainly seems like Albert Pujols’ time at the top has come to an end.
And, as Kay Adams and I discussed this morning, that time comes to every player:
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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.