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Thursday December 12th, 2019 7:51PM

LEADING OFF: Cole vs Snell, Tanaka hopes for good split

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

COLE'S ROLL

Gerrit Cole led the big leagues with 326 strikeouts, topped the AL with a 2.50 ERA and went 20-5, one win behind Astros teammate Justin Verlander for most in the majors. He also was 16-0 in his final 22 starts.

Cole starts Game 2 of the AL Division Series, a day after Verlander pitched seven shutout innings of one-hit ball in a 6-2 win over Tampa Bay in the opener. Cole's strikeouts set a franchise record, topping the 313 fanned by J.R. Richard in 1979.

Blake Snell (6-8, 4.29 ERA) pitches for the Rays. A year after going 21-5 with a 1.89 ERA and winning the AL Cy Young Award, the lefty missed two months late in the season because of arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow. Snell didn't get out of the third inning in any of his three September starts, but believes he'll be able to go quite a bit longer in this playoff outing.

"I feel very good," he said. "I feel like I'll be able to go five strong innings, if I'm in the zone and attacking like I should be."

PLAYOFF POISE

The Yankees will give the ball to October standout Masahiro Tanaka at home in Game 2 of their AL Division Series against Minnesota. The Japanese right-hander is 3-2 with a 1.50 ERA in five postseason starts. He also finished strong after an uneven season tied to struggles with his trademark split-finger fastball. Following a lot of trial and error, Tanaka believes he has his best splitter again.

"It was a struggle, but at the end of the day, you keep trying," Tanaka said Friday via translator. "You work on your mechanics, on your grip, and you just keep on trying and trying, and I feel like towards the end of the season, I was able to really find that good splitter and get that back."

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli held off announcing a Game 2 starter until the conclusion of Game 1. He's likely to go with right-hander Jake Odorizzi, although rookie Randy Dobnak was excellent in September and could also be an option.

DAY OF REST

Both NL Division Series are off to travel, meaning Braves closer Mark Melancon gets a day to recover after arduous outings in Games 1 and 2. Melancon blew a save and gave up four runs in the series opener, a 7-6 loss to St. Louis, then allowed two baserunners in the ninth before closing out a 3-0 win in Game 2. A three-time All-Star, Melancon rediscovered his best form after being acquired from San Francisco midseason. Atlanta could use him at the top of his game with the bullpen short-handed following an injury to right-hander Chris Martin.

CATCHING UP

Former Cubs catchers David Ross and Joe Girardi will talk to the team next week about becoming the new manager. Joe Maddon was let go after Chicago missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

Ross works in the Cubs' front office. The club interviewed bench coach Mark Loretta this week and will speak to first base coach Will Venable next week.

___

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