Paul Molitor is working his magic in Minnesota

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For years tons of Minnesotans wanted Hall of Famer (and local boy) Paul Molitor added to the Twins’ coaching staff because he’s always been touted as a great baseball mind and specifically an excellent base-running teacher.

This season the Twins finally added him to Ron Gardenhire’s staff and to hear Brian Dozier tell it at least, Molitor has already had a big impact. Dozier, who has 12 steals after totaling 14 all of last season, told Tyler Mason of FSN North:

To be honest with you, what’s kind of revamped everything has been having Molly on the staff. It’s been night and day compared to every other year, as far as dissecting pitchers, knowing exactly what they do, their tendencies, stuff like that. He has a five, 10-minute conversation with me before every game and every single thing that he’s got on film from the pitcher, tendencies, everything.

All of which is great, of course, although as a Twins fan it does make me wonder what took so long to actually get Molitor on the coaching staff.

As a team the Twins rank fourth in the league with 27 steals and have been thrown out just eight times. Last season they stole 52 bases all year to rank 13th in the league and Dozier went just 14-for-21. Molitor has also been tasked with handling the Twins’ defensive shifts, which are much more frequent and analytic based after a decade of relying mostly on Gardenhire’s eyes and gut feelings.

Astros clinch AL West for third consecutive year

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For the third consecutive season, the Astros are AL West champions. The ‘stros clinched the division on Sunday afternoon with a convincing 13-5 win over the Angels. They were backed by three homers from leadoff man George Springer and individual homers from Alex Bregman and Aledmys Díaz.

Springer has the 22nd three-homer game in baseball this season. He’s the first Astro to hit three homers in a game since Yordan Álvarez last month, on August 10.

Justin Verlander lasted five innings in Sunday’s start, yielding two runs on six hits and a pair of walks with five strikeouts. The right-hander is arguably the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award, now 20-6 with a 2.53 ERA and a 288/42 K/BB ratio in 217 innings on the year. Verlander is 12 strikeouts shy of the 300-strikeout milestone and six strikeouts short of 3,000 for his career. If the Astros stay on schedule, Verlander would pitch the second-to-last game of the regular season against the Angels.

Sunday’s win marked No. 102 on the season for the Astros. The franchise record is 103 wins set last year. With six games remaining, it seems likely the Astros will set a new record.

The Astros and Yankees both won on Sunday, meaning the Astros remain a half-game ahead in the race for home field advantage. The No. 1 seed will also have the privilege of playing the Wild Card winner, which is down to the Athletics, Rays, and Indians.