A most interesting ball

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LAKELAND, FLORIDA — You know, you never handle your luggage in the show? Somebody else carries your bags. It’s great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains.

Well, maybe not the white balls part. At least not in spring training.  Meet Richard DeConcilio, from Lakeland, Florida:

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He’s here today for the Yankees-Tigers game, and I started talking to him during batting practice because he yelled something about how a bottle of water left on the field was really “A-Rod’s growth hormone!” He seemed like my kind of guy, so I went over. I was specifically interested in the ball he was holding, which he told me was a home run ball he caught during the Tigers-Florida Southern game on Tuesday:

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Yep, they were using leftover — and apparently well-used — 2013 playoff balls in a spring training game. Which, while 100% understandable and sensible, just strikes me as kind of neat and odd.

I’m going to assume that was the ball that Jarrod Saltalamacchia tagged Prince Fielder with on the flop play at third base in Game 6 of the ALCS.

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.