Joe Saunders exits early with bruised left ankle; Rangers remain snakebitten

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In early March, the Rangers made an emergency signing of Joe Saunders to patch up their injury-ravaged rotation, having lost Derek Holland and Matt Harrison. The Rangers had another scare when Yu Darvish was forced to miss his Opening Day start due to a neck injury, though he didn’t require a stint on the disabled list. This is pitchers only, mind you, as the Rangers have also lost top prospect Jurickson Profar and catcher Geovany Soto. How much worse can it get?

Saunders was metaphorically hit hard by the Rays in his start on Friday night, allowing five runs (four earned) over 3 2/3 innings. But he was also literally hit hard, taking an Evan Longoria comebacker off of his left ankle. The Rangers removed him from the game and sent him to have X-rays taken. They turned up negative, reports Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and Saunders was officially diagnosed with a bruised left ankle.

It remains to be seen if Saunders will have to miss his next start, but you can bet the Rangers are holding their breath.

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.