The Phillies signed right-hander Carlos Zambrano to a Minor League deal on May 15, setting July 1 as an opt-out date. Zambrano worked himself back into game shape, then started at Single-A Clearwater, then Double-A Reading, and most recently with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Entering tonight’s start, his last in the Phillies’ Minor League system at least, he had posted a 1.89 ERA in 31.1 innings. Despite the nice ERA, reports have been less than enthusiastic, citing a sub-90 MPH fastball and baffling inefficiency. As time went on, it became more and more clear that Zambrano wasn’t going to earn that coveted promotion to the Majors.
Tonight, his fate has been sealed. He left his start against the Durham Bulls after only two innings with an apparent arm injury. The Phillies will seek to bolster their flimsy starting rotation elsewhere (if they even do at all) while the 32-year-old Zambrano will seek a path to the Major Leagues elsewhere.
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.