What we're watching: Sanchez versus Vander Meer

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– Jason Schmidt will make his first major league start since June 16,
2007 tonight against the Reds. Shoulder woes have made him a complete
bust since Dodgers GM Ned Colletti handed him $47 million for three
years in Dec. 2006. It’s unlikely that the 36-year-old will start
earning that money now — he had a 5.82 ERA in his last three rehab
starts for Triple-A Albuquerque — but the Dodgers can afford to give
him a couple of starts and see what happens. Making Schmidt’s
assignment more difficult tonight is that the Reds will have their
second-best hitter in the lineup, as Micah Owings pitches for the first
time in 11 days.

– Longtime Braves teammates John Smoltz and Kevin Millwood will face
off in Texas as the Red Sox and Rangers begin a three-game series.
Smoltz is coming off his first win for Boston after striking out seven
Royals on July 11. He’s 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA. Millwood has faltered
lately, going 0-2 with an 8.83 ERA in three starts this month. That’s
taken his season ERA from 2.80 to 3.46. The Rangers are hoping to get
Nelson Cruz back in the lineup after he missed Sunday’s game with a
small fracture in his right ring finger.

– Eight years after the Indians made him a supplemental first-round
pick, J.D. Martin will make his major league debut starting for the
Nationals against the Mets. Martin opened his career with a bang,
posting a 1.38 ERA and a 72/11 K/BB ratio in 46 innings in Rookie ball.
However, elbow problems began to strike in 2003, eventually resulting
in Tommy John surgery, and it didn’t look like he’d ever reach the
majors. His best stuff is long gone now, but the Nationals thought his
8-3 record and 2.66 ERA in Triple-A made him worth a look.

Game of the Night

San Francisco vs. Atlanta – With plenty of time to have thought about
it, Jonathan Sanchez will finally get to follow up his no-hitter
tonight against the Braves. It’s been 10 days since his 11-strikeout
gem against the Padres, and he’s pitched a total of 12 innings in four
weeks. For the year, he’s 0-7 with a 6.62 ERA in road outings. Atlanta
will start Tommy Hanson, who still hasn’t taken a loss as a major
leaguer. He wasn’t sharp 11 days ago against the Rockies, but he’s 4-0
with a 2.85 ERA since being debuting in early June.

Astros grab early lead in Game 1 of ALDS against Royals

Houston Astros' Colby Rasmus watches his two-run home run ball clear the fence against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the sixth inning of a baseball game Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
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The Astros have grabbed an early 2-0 lead against Yordano Ventura in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Royals in Kansas City.

Things could have been much worse, as the Astros loaded the bases against Ventura to begin the game after Jose Altuve singled and George Springer drew a walk before Carlos Correa singled to shallow right field. Colby Rasmus grounded out to second base to score the first run before Evan Gattis grounded out to shortstop to bring in the second run. Ventura finally escaped after striking out Luis Valbuena swinging.

Ventura threw 24 pitches in the first inning. The Royals will attempt to fight back against Collin McHugh in the bottom of the first.

Pete Rose suggests Josh Donaldson should have stayed in Game 1 despite head injury

Former Cincinnati Reds player and manager Pete Rose poses while taping a segment for Miami Television News on the campus of Miami University, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, in Oxford, Ohio. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
AP Photo/Gary Landers

Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson was forced to exit Game 1 of the ALDS against the Rangers on Thursday after he took a knee to the head on a takeout slide at second base. The Blue Jays announced after the game that Donaldson passed concussion tests, but he’ll be reevaluated on Friday.

After the game, the Fox Sports 1 panel consisting of Kevin Burkhardt, Pete Rose, Frank Thomas, and Raul Ibanez discussed the high-profile injuries from Game 1. This led Rose to suggesting that Donaldson should have stayed in the game despite his head injury. Seriously.

Courtesy of Big League Stew, here’s the quote from Rose:

His comments created some awkwardness, but the other panelists gently tried to remind him that things have changed for the better and nobody takes any chances with a head injury. In fact, Donaldson wouldn’t be the first player to pass a concussion test one day before feeling symptoms later. It’s remarkable that nonsense like this could be said on a major sports broadcast in 2015, but here we are.

Blue Jays have to beat Hamels after losing Game 1

David Price

With their rented ace on the mound and the home crowd riled up, this was supposed to be the Blue Jays’ game. After all, they’re the one overwhelming favorite to win their LDS. Well, they were. After a 5-3 loss to the Rangers on Thursday, the Blue Jays face an uphill climb to advance in the best-of-five series.

It’s not over, obviously. For one thing, the Blue Jays get to face left-handers in at least two of the next three games, and the Jays destroy southpaws. The Jays will have the pitching advantages in Texas after Friday’s Game 2 showdown against Cole Hamels, and they’ll probably have a sharper David Price out there next time if the series goes five games.

How Toronto’s lineup shapes up in the coming days will hinge on the health of Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista. Donaldson passed his initial concussion tests after colliding with Rougned Odor‘s knee, but he’d be far from the first player to experience lasting effects after initially getting the all clear. Bautista, too, is expected to be ready to play Friday after leaving with a hamstring cramp. At this point, there’s no reason to suspect that the Jays are understating the extent of the problem.

If Donaldson is fine, the Jays will have a much better chance of taking down Hamels. Game 2 starter Marcus Stroman has looked outstanding since returning from his torn ACL, and he should be able to hold down the Rangers’ offense better than Price did. He might not even have to face Adrian Beltre, who left Thursday’s game with a back problem.

The Rangers have yet to announce the rest of their rotation, though it sounds like Martin Perez is the favorite to get the ball opposite Marco Estrada in Game 3. It would then be either Colby Lewis, Derek Holland or Yovani Gallardo on three days’ rest in Game 4 (with the Jays starting knuckleballer R.A. Dickey). Lewis seems the more likely choice because of Holland’s inconsistency and the Jays’ dominance of left-handers. Those would both be winnable games for Toronto.

So, what it comes down to is beating Hamels. If the Jays head to Texas tied 1-1, they’re still the favorites to advance to the ALCS. If it’s 2-0 Rangers, three in a row is going to be a lot to ask.