Roy Halladay to begin rehab assignment Thursday, could return later this month

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Nearly three months removed from right shoulder surgery, Roy Halladay is ready to return to game action.

According to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said this afternoon that Halladay will begin a minor league rehab assignment Thursday with the team’s Gulf Coast League affiliate. He was given the go-ahead after making it through a simulated game Saturday and a bullpen session earlier today.

Halladay is slated to throw about 80-85 pitches on Thursday. Amaro indicated that he could require just two rehab starts, which would place his return in the final week of August.

“If everything continues to go in a straight line, he could be back after two (rehab) starts,” Amaro said. “But it depends on how he feels. You can’t crystal-ball it.”

Halladay posted an uncharacteristic 8.65 ERA over seven starts prior to surgery in May to have a bone spur removed from his right shoulder as well as a partially torn rotator cuff and frayed labrum repaired. While the Phillies will be playing out the string over the final five weeks of the season, it will present Halladay with an opportunity to showcase his health and effectiveness. The 36-year-old is due to hit free agency this offseason.

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.