Justin Verlander is scheduled to start for the Houston Astros against former teammate Carlos Correa and the Minnesota Twins in Game 1 of their AL Division Series on Saturday.
Houston manager Dusty Baker made the announcement Thursday, adding that left-hander Framber Valdez will pitch Sunday night in Game 2.
After all four Wild Card Series ended in two-game sweeps Wednesday, the eight remaining playoff teams are prepping for best-of-five Division Series that begin Saturday.
Correa and the AL Central champion Twins will be in Houston to face the defending World Series champion Astros, who won the AL West.
Also in the American League, Texas plays at AL East champion Baltimore.
In the National League, the young Arizona Diamondbacks square off against the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers, and the defending NL champion Philadelphia Phillies head to Atlanta for a playoff rematch with the major league-best Braves, who won their sixth straight NL East title this year.
The Braves are the current betting favorites to win the World Series at +270, followed by the Dodgers (+440) and Astros (+450), according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Should the Philadelphia Phillies win the World Series, save a spot at the end of the Broad Street parade route for Calum Scott.
The British singer with the pop hit about loneliness and heartbreak insists he’s coming to Philly and wearing the jersey the team sent him last season as a thank you for his part in making “ Dancing On My Own ” a staple of the postseason soundtrack at Citizens Bank Park.
Scott is as amazed as anyone the song has improbably bloomed into a playoff anthem for the Phillies, who won the National League pennant last year before losing to Houston in the World Series.
“They win the World Series, I’m there, man,” Scott said. “I think at that point, you’ll have to hold me back.”
Texas got a big boost from 21-year-old Evan Carter during its first-round sweep at Tampa Bay.
The speedy outfielder, who batted .306 with five homers in 23 games down the stretch for the Rangers, reached base in seven of his eight plate appearances during the Wild Card Series to help them advance in the postseason for the first time since 2011.
“I wouldn’t say it was easy,” Carter said with a wide smile, even though that’s exactly how he’s made it look. “There’s a lot of work and preparation and stuff … older people on the team with a lot of experience, picking their brains, and the coaching staff.”
Carter has such a calmness about him less than a month after his Rangers debut that manager Bruce Bochy wonders if the kid even realizes he’s in the big leagues.
“Just love the way he’s handling himself through all this,” Bochy said.
The Orioles may be Big Shots this year as they make their first playoff appearance since 2016, but they’ll try to stay out of the Piano Man’s way this weekend.
Baltimore announced that Game 1 of the AL Division Series at Camden Yards is scheduled for just after 1 p.m. Saturday. Then it will be time for the Orioles and Texas Rangers to Stand Back, because Stevie Nicks and Billy Joel are playing a concert at 7 p.m. that night at M&T Bank Stadium next door.
The two big events in close proximity could create all sorts of parking issues.
Arizona hopes to get catcher Gabriel Moreno back soon. Moreno left Game 2 of the Wild Card Series at Milwaukee after he was struck in the helmet by a backswing.
Meanwhile, manager Torey Lovullo said Diamondbacks outfielder Jake McCarthy strained his oblique while taking batting practice Tuesday and is weeks from being healthy enough to play.
Arizona removed McCarthy from its Wild Card Series roster about 10 minutes before the start of their 6-3 Game 1 victory over Milwaukee on Tuesday. Utilityman Jace Peterson replaced him on the roster.
Baseball changed this year — especially for guys with game-changing speed, like Atlanta star Ronald Acuña Jr.
Fans only now turning their attention to baseball for the postseason will find a sport with a different pace. Following the implementation of new rules like a pitch clock and limits on pitcher disengagements from the rubber, players are running much more than a year ago. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, a dramatic jump of more than 1,000 from a year ago. It’s the highest total since 1987’s record of 3,585.
The rampant running is expected to continue throughout the playoffs.
“Guys are going to be turning it loose like they have all year,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker, whose team earned a bye to the Division Series. “Teams like Arizona are going to be flying all over the place. I don’t really see a change from the season.”
After the wild-card rounds were broadcast on ABC and ESPN, the later rounds will be split among Fox, FS1 and TBS.
Division Series: Oct. 7-14
League Championship Series: Oct. 15-24
World Series: Oct. 27-Nov. 4
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