LEADING OFF: Astros-Yanks ready to get wild; Cubs, Bucs wait
A look at what’s happening around the major leagues today:
LET’S GET WILD
The Yankees and Astros open the postseason in New York with Masahiro Tanaka pitching against Houston ace Dallas Keuchel in the AL wild-card game. Tanaka has been slowed by a hamstring injury down the stretch, but before that he had emerged as the Yankees’ most dependable starter. Keuchel, meanwhile, is a 20-game winner who has been among the AL’s best pitchers all season. Of particular note with this game at hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium: Keuchel gave up only 0.66 homers per nine innings this season, second-best among qualifying AL starters behind Minnesota’s Mike Pelfrey.
ACES ON DECK
The Cubs and Pirates work out in Pittsburgh to prep for Wednesday night’s NL wild-card game and one of the most anticipated postseason pitching matchups in the last few years. Chicago calls on Cy Young Award candidate Jake Arrieta, who won 22 games and was at his best down the stretch. He threw his first no-hitter on Aug. 30 before posting a 0.39 ERA in six September starts. Gerrit Cole goes for Pittsburgh, coming off career bests for wins (19), ERA (2.60) and strikeouts (202).
As they await the winner of Wednesday’s NL wild-card game, the Cardinals hope star catcher Yadier Molina is close to 100 percent when the Division Series starts Friday. Molina has been out since Sept. 20 with a partially torn ligament in his left thumb and will try to play while wearing a splint to protect it. Backup catcher Tony Cruz has been playing in place of Molina and would be the fill-in if Molina’s thumb sidelines him in the postseason.
The Nationals have begun their hunt for a new manager after firing Matt Williams on Monday a year after he won NL Manager of the Year. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo described his ideal candidate as someone with ”leadership qualities, knowledge of the game, X’s and O’s,” as well as someone with experience. One notable managerial free agent who fits that description is Bud Black, fired by the Padres midway through this season despite a reputation as a quality bench boss.