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Thursday December 12th, 2019 6:34PM

LEADING OFF: HR Derby at Yankee Stadium, Verlander vs Rays

By The Associated Press
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A look at what's happening around the majors today:

TEEING OFF

Yankee Stadium will be the site when the teams that hit the most home runs in history start their AL Division Series.

Nelson Cruz, Max Kepler and the Minnesota Twins set the major league single-season record with 307 homers this year. Eddie Rosario, who connected 32 times, nicknamed his club the Bomba Squad.

Gleyber Torres, Gary Sánchez and the New York Yankees finished right behind with 306 home runs, living up to the Bronx Bombers tag the team has backed up for decades.

In a season with a record 6,776 homers, the playoffs already have been high voltage. Left-hander James Paxton (15-6, 3.82 ERA) starts for the Yankees in his postseason debut, opposed by righty José Berríos (14-8, 3.82).

"I feel like there's so many shifts and so many different things going on in the game, why would I want to put the ball on the ground for the most part? Ninety-nine percent of the time it's on the ground, it's an out," Yankees slugger Aaron Judge said. "I've got three strikes. Why not take three chances to get one out of the park?”

OPENING UP

Justin Verlander and the 107-win Astros begin their ALDS against wild-card winner Tampa Bay at Minute Maid Park. Houston features a formidable rotation, with Verlander (21-6, 2.58 ERA, 300 strikeouts) to be followed by Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke.

The Rays often use a reliever to start for an inning or two. Rather than an opener, they plan to throw full-time starters Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell and Charlie Morton in the first three games. Glasnow (6-1, 1.78) missed four months this season with a strained right forearm, returned in early September and pitched just 4 1/3 innings in his last start. Manager Kevin Cash said he thinks it's "reasonable" to think Glasnow will be able to pitch six innings in Game 1.

Astros shortstop Carlos Correa is healthy and expected to start in the opener. He missed the last week of the regular season because of a sore back.

ROTATING

Back from a one-day stint in the bullpen, Washington star Stephen Strasburg is set to start Game 2 of the NL Division Series at Dodger Stadium as the Nationals try to pull even. Strasburg earned the win in relief with three shutout innings in a dramatic wild-card victory over Milwaukee on Tuesday.

Strasburg struck out four and walked none on 34 pitches in the first relief appearance of his career. He was 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA and threw an NL-high 209 innings during the regular season.

Clayton Kershaw (16-5, 3.03) starts for Los Angeles, which won the opener 6-0 behind Walker Buehler.

TAKE TWO

The Cardinals and Braves are back in action, a day after St. Louis held on for a wild 7-6 win at SunTrust Park. Both teams will use pitchers who excelled in the second half.

At 23, Jack Flaherty of the Cardinals went 7-2 with a 0.91 ERA in 15 starts after the All-Star break, the third-lowest mark in major league history over that span behind Jake Arrieta (0.75) of the 2015 Chicago Cubs and Greg Maddux (0.87) of the 1994 Braves.

Atlanta will counter with Mike Foltynewicz, who also finished strong in a definite tale of two seasons. The 2018 All-Star was demoted to Triple-A in June with a 2-5 record and 6.37 ERA. Since rejoining the rotation in early August, he is 6-1 with a 2.65 ERA, claiming the second spot in the postseason rotation.

SKIPPED OVER

The Mets became the seventh team to head into the offseason looking for a new manager after firing Mickey Callaway. His teams missed the playoffs in both his seasons at the helm, and he had one season left on his contract.

The move Thursday came four days after New York wrapped up an 86-76 campaign that marked a nine-win improvement over his 2018 debut. The Mets went 46-26 following the All-Star break and made an unlikely charge into the NL wild-card race, only to be eliminated during the final week.

Joe Girardi, the former Yankees and Marlins skipper, and Houston Astros bench coach Joe Espada have been mentioned as potential replacements for Callaway. Buck Showalter and Carlos Beltran have been mentioned, too.

Also looking to hire managers: the Angels, Cubs, Giants, Padres, Pirates and Royals.

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Baseball , AP Sports - Major League Baseball
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