The reinforcements are coming. On Tuesday, the Angels announced the activation of P/DH Shohei Ohtani, infielder Zack Cozart, and reliever Cody Allen from the injured list. To make room on the 25-man roster, the club designated outfielder Peter Bourjos and pitcher Chris Stratton for assignment and optioned infielder Luis Rengifo to Triple-A Salt Lake.
The big news here, of course, is the return of Ohtani. He underwent Tommy John surgery at the conclusion of the 2018 season and will not be able to pitch until 2020, so he will return strictly as a designated hitter. Ohtani won the AL Rookie of the Year Award last year, batting .285/.361/.564 with 22 home runs, 61 RBI, 59 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 367 plate appearances. As a pitcher, he posted a 3.31 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 22 walks in 51 2/3 innings. Truly one of the most dynamic seasons of all time. Ohtani is in Tuesday’s starting lineup against the Tigers batting third behind Mike Trout.
Cozart, 33, landed on the IL with a strained neck. He was hitting a paltry .109/.157/.125 across 70 trips to the plate. David Fletcher and Tommy La Stella handled third base in his absence.
Allen, 30, struggled in 11 appearances before being sidelined with a lumbar spine strain. He yielded six runs on seven hits and 10 walks with 11 strikeouts in nine innings of work. The Angels will likely ease him back into action by using him in lower-leverage situations first.
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.