There was a dustup late last week — maybe less, than a dustup, but that’s the most minor word I can think of to describe “a thing people on those ESPN shout shows felt was worth talking about” — regarding Bryce Harper using one of Yasiel Puig’s bats in a game. I was in a pizza place Friday night where there was a TV tuned to one of those shoes and, on a split screen featuring two reporters who like to yell about things, were the words “Harper Used Puig’s Bat.” So I suppose that’s a controversy of some kind.
Not much of one, though. As Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports, Harper uses bats from lots of other players. Or at least their models, on a more or less constant try-out basis. If he likes one, he orders them with his name on them. There’s a whole family tree of bat usage, actually. Manny Ramirez had a model he liked named after him, which Ian Desmond adopted and now Harper is trying that one too. Eventually he’ll find one he likes for a while and it will be a Harper.
So it’s just a really inside baseball tech story, not a statement or an instance of guys who are supposed to be competing against one another being too friendly for the tastes of some people or whatever. An inside baseball tech story that would probably be pretty fascinating to known more about, actually. Someone with an attention span: please give us the definitive history of bat models, please. Along with one of those illustrated family trees. I’d buy a print of that.
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.