Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz said during an interview with Bob Nightengale of USA Today that his choice not to appeal a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs was “out of my hands” and “wasn’t my decision”:
My first thought was to appeal, and right up to the last day I told [the Rangers] my decision was to appeal. That was my plan. It’s hard to explain it, but at the end it wasn’t my decision. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. It came out of my hands. … It was so hard, because I knew something worse could happen to me. If I wasn’t a free agent, it would have been different. It’s a totally different situation.
According to Nightengale if Cruz had appealed–likely delaying the penalty until 2014 and allowing him to finish the season in the Rangers’ lineup–MLB was threatening to increase the suspension from 50 games to 100 games. And obviously hitting the open market with a 100-game ban looming would crush his free agent value. Instead he immediately began serving the 50-game suspension and is eligible to return for the playoffs, except the Rangers have fallen apart down the stretch by going 5-15 in their last 20 games to fall out of the Wild Card lead.
General manager Jon Daniels told Nightengale that “we’d be in better shape if he wasn’t suspended” and “it’s a choice Nelson made.” Which of course doesn’t quite vibe with Cruz’s statement that “at the end it wasn’t my decision” and “it came out of my hands.”
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.