LEADING OFF: Astros, Indians buck opener trend; Yanks-Sox
A look at what's happening around the majors today:
NO OPENERS NEEDED
Cy Young Award winners Justin Verlander and Corey Kluber will start the AL Division Series between the Astros and Indians at Minute Maid Park in a matchup that figures to buck the October trend of bullpen "openers."
Verlander, a 14-year veteran, believes the AL West champion Astros and AL Central champion Indians have the top two rotations in the AL. He thinks the performance of each team's starters will be paramount to success.
"Us and the Indians probably being 1 and 2, however you like to slice it, us and them, them and us," he said. "Pick your poison. We both have very defined starters who have a great track record and have good stuff. This should be a really fun series."
Chris Sale waited eight years to make his first postseason start and then another 365 days for a chance to put that memory behind him. The Red Sox left-hander will open Game 1 of the AL Division Series against the New York Yankees, one year after he was bombarded by the championship-bound Houston Astros in his playoff debut.
"Last year, obviously, I got my feet wet. Didn't do too well. But sometimes you learn from the bad more than the good," Sale said Thursday, a day before the AL East rivals open their best-of-five series.
He'll oppose J.A. Happ at Fenway Park as the Yankees and Red Sox begin their first postseason series since the 2004 AL Championship Series.
THE ACE AWAITS
Clayton Kershaw pitches Game 2 of the Dodgers' NLDS against Atlanta showing no signs that he's miffed about being passed over for Game 1. Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts went with Hyun-Jin Ryu in the series opener at Dodger Stadium instead of the longtime face of the franchise, setting up Kershaw to pitch on five days of rest. Ryu responded with seven sharp innings in a 6-0 win.
Roberts says the vibe with Kershaw is "great." Kershaw can opt out of the final two years of his contract after the World Series.
"Obviously, it's a huge sacrifice for him," Roberts said. "But to not let it influence his mind or psyche, that doesn't surprise me."
Atlanta will counter with veteran Anibal Sanchez.
The Rockies' bats have gone mostly silent this October, a slump try to snap against Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin in Game 2 of their NLDS at Miller Park. Colorado had just four hits in a 3-2, 10-inning loss Thursday, two days after beating the Chicago 2-1 in 13 innings in the wild-card game.
At least they'll get a respite from Milwaukee's vaunted bullpen. Relief pitcher Brandon Woodruff pitched three hitless innings as the "opener" in Game 1 and the bullpen cruised until Jeremy Jeffress' ninth-inning hiccup. Chacin will be pitching on three days of rest against left-hander Tyler Anderson.
Three Cuban prospects, including top international free agent Victor Victor Mesa, will try out for major league scouts at Marlins Park. Also participating will be Mesa's brother, Victor Mesa Jr., and pitcher Sandy Gaston. All teams are invited to attend. The Mesas, both outfielders, were recently declared free agents by Major League Baseball and can be signed by any team.