Manny Machado “has got a real chance” to be ready for Opening Day

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Initially when third baseman Manny Machado had knee surgery in October the Orioles indicated that they didn’t expect him back in time for Opening Day, but those plans have apparently changed a bit.

According to manager Buck Showalter that initial timetable was merely the team wanting to “put a real safe date on it” and now that Machado has progressed well in the early stages of his rehab “he’s got a real chance to make the start of the season.”

Showalter also told Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com that Machado would need to be healthy enough to play in spring training games by March 15 in order for the Orioles to consider activating him for Opening Day, so that’ll be the new timetable to track.

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.