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Wednesday November 25th, 2020 12:17AM

LEADING OFF: Rays' Snell, Astros' Valdez meet in ALCS opener

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

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HELLO AGAIN

Houston and Tampa Bay are set to open their AL Championship Series in San Diego, with Astros left-hander Framber Valdez opposing 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell. The Rays are seeking revenge after Houston beat them in five games in the AL Division Series last year.

The Astros are in the ALCS for the fourth straight year, looking for a third trip to the World Series in that span. After going 29-31 during the regular season, Houston is 5-1 in the playoffs after eliminating AL West champion Oakland in four games in the ALDS at Dodger Stadium.

The Rays are trying to get to their second World Series after losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008. They went the distance in their ALDS against the Yankees, advancing with a 2-1 victory Friday night on Mike Brosseau’s dramatic eighth-inning home run off Aroldis Chapman.

CLOSED OUT

In a season that’s gone exceedingly well for the Los Angeles Dodgers, a late problem that popped up is causing a lot of concern: Can they still count on Kenley Jansen as their closer?

That has become an uncomfortable question for manager Dave Roberts and the Dodgers as they prepare for another NL Championship Series. Especially with something seemingly not right with the reliever who for so long was the obvious answer when it came to finishing playoff games.

“I’m very sensitive to what he has accomplished on the baseball field, as a closer and as a perennial All-Star, but we also have to look in real time, and do what’s best for the Dodgers,” said Roberts, though the manager hasn’t been ready to make a definitive declaration about Jansen’s role.

The best-of-seven NLCS against the Atlanta Braves starts Monday night.

ANOTHER EARLY OFFSEASON

After finishing its 11th consecutive season without a World Series, the Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman face a series of key decisions.

Big league batting champion DJ LeMahieu is eligible for free agency along with pitchers Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton. New York has a $17 million option on pitcher J.A. Happ the team made sure would not become guaranteed and a $10 million option on 37-year-old outfielder Brett Gardner, the last link to the Yankees’ 2009 champions.

Giancarlo Stanton is expected to keep the remaining $218 million and seven guaranteed seasons left in his contract rather than opt out, and reliever Zack Britton appears likely to stay under either player or club options.

“We’re going to get there. I know it. And it’s going to make it all the sweeter,” Aaron Boone said after his third unfulfilling season as manager ended with a 2-1 loss against the Rays in AL Division Series Game 5 on Friday.

New York is expected to exercise Boone’s option for 2021 or to give him a new contract.

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

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