Josh Hamilton is back on chewing tobacco

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Last year Josh Hamilton famously struggled with quitting chewing tobacco, which led to cryptic comments about “personal issues” and coincided with struggles at the plate. Nolan Ryan criticized Hamilton for trying to quit during the season. Hamilton himself characterized it as a struggle to maintain “obedience to the Lord,” which presumably means Hamilton views chewing tobacco, or not, as a matter that goes to his very soul.

So this, from Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times, is interesting:

Josh Hamilton finished a workout with the team’s strength and conditioning coach Tuesday afternoon, went into the Angels’ dugout for some water, took a small wad of chewing tobacco out of his mouth and flung it to the floor.

Asked if he had resumed chewing tobacco after quitting last July — a move that led to withdrawal symptoms and may have contributed to his second-half slump with Texas — Hamilton said, “No comment.”

He later tried to downplay the issue to DiGiovanna, asking “is this really a story?” Normally, probably not. But given that Hamilton has decided this is an issue of his faith and his sobriety — and given how explicit Hamilton has been that his faith and his sobriety are an essential part of his baseball career —  yes, it is kind of an issue when he’s the guy dipping.

I don’t think anyone on the planet besides Hamilton and his family truly cares if he uses tobacco. Most just want him to hit the ball, some probably want him to be content, healthy and happy, and some probably want him to be a good role model. But this was something Hamilton considered important. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to be OK making the reasonable distinction between a dip on the diamond and the other threats to his faith and sobriety that so many others are but with which he has had so many problems.

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.