In the midst of a 0-for-18 slump, Matt Holliday was benched Sunday as manager Mike Matheny talked about the role a sore left knee has played in the outfielder’s recent struggles.
Matheny told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that Holliday had his knee “flare up” during Wednesday’s game and went on to say:
He’s trying to grind for us because we need everybody to grind right now. He’s feeling it. You can tell by some of his movements.
As is so often the case, playing through–or “grinding” through, if you prefer–an injury leads to poor results and worse health.
Holliday is having the worst season of his career at age 34, posting career-lows in batting average (.260), slugging percentage (.407), and OPS (.769) while hitting just 12 homers in 119 games.
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.