Justin Verlander
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Lineups for ALCS Game 1

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The American League Championship Series is about to kick off at Fenway Park this evening, and both the Astros and Red Sox will stick with tried-and-true lineups as they look to gain an early lead in the series. The Astros are 2-1 at Fenway Park this year and have managed to score at least five runs in every game they’ve played on Boston’s turf, though Game 1 starter Justin Verlander hasn’t stepped foot in Fenway since June 2017 (and got torched in an 11-3 loss when he did so).

Here are the lineups:

Astros

1. George Springer (R) CF
2. Jose Altuve (R) 2B
3. Alex Bregman (R) 3B
4. Yuli Gurriel (R) 1B
5. Tyler White (R) DH
6. Marwin Gonzalez (S) LF
7. Carlos Correa (R) SS
8. Martin Maldonado (R) C
9. Josh Reddick (L) RF

Justin Verlander RHP

The Astros made a few key roster changes in advance of the ALCS. Right-handed reliever Will Harris and rookie outfielder Myles Straw were removed from the postseason roster and replaced by right-handers Joe Smith and Hector Rondon. Smith and Rondon are just two of five pitchers who have yet to be utilized in the season, and it’s expected that manager A.J. Hinch will utilize a fresh batch of arms — including relievers Josh James and Tony Sipp and right-handed starter Charlie Morton — as the team prepares to go up against the AL East champs this weekend.

For Game 1, Tyler White will step into the DH role once again. Maldonado is set up behind the plate for Verlander’s start, and MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart notes that he’ll likely be pegged for Gerrit Cole‘s start as well, while Brian McCann is expected to catch Dallas Keuchel.

Red Sox

1. Mookie Betts (R) RF
2. Andrew Benintendi (L) LF
3. J.D. Martinez (R) DH
4. Xander Bogaerts (R) SS
5. Steve Pearce (R) 1B
6. Brock Holt (L) 2B
7. Eduardo Núñez (R) 3B
8. Jackie Bradley, Jr. (L) CF
9. Sandy Leon (S) C

Chris Sale LHP

The Red Sox will roll out the same roster they used during the ALDS, with the exception of right-hander Steven Wright, who was removed from the postseason roster last Saturday with a knee injury and is now ineligible to pitch in the ALCS. He will continue to be replaced by right-hander Heath Hembree. First baseman Mitch Moreland, meanwhile, will rejoin the team after leaving Game 2 of the Division series with a bout of right hamstring tightness, though he’s likely to see limited playing time off the bench until he makes a full recovery.

On Saturday, the Red Sox shifted the heart of the order from Pearce-Martinez-Bogaerts to Martinez-Bogaerts-Pearce. Holt will take over for Ian Kinsler at second base, while Sandy Leon will catch Sale’s first start of the ALCS.

Game 1 is scheduled to begin at 8:09 PM EDT.

 

The Giants are winning but they’re still gonna sell

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The state of baseball in general, the state of the National League in particular and the state of the San Francisco Giants as a competitor are conspiring to create what seems like at least a mildly absurd situation.

The Giants, a veteran-laden team that, as recently as this past offseason but definitely within the past couple of years, were at least talking about being on a win-now footing, just swept a four-game series, have won five straight games and have won 12 of 14 to pull themselves to within two and a half games of a playoff spot.

Yet, that’s all for temporary show, because they’re about to sell off. At least according to Jeff Passan at ESPN. Giants president Farhan Zaidi tried to push back on that in a radio interview yesterday, denying that the club has foreclosed the possibility of a postseason push, but I’m not really buying that and I don’t think most people are.

On one level it makes sense to ignore the recent surge and forge on with a rebuild. Sure, the Giants are winning but they’re not exactly good. They’re two and a half out of the Wild Card, but there are many teams ahead of them. There’s a lot of reason to think that they’re playing in good fortune right now and that that, rather than finding some extra gear of sustainable better play, is what’s to credit. Hot streaks can happen at any time but the trade deadline only comes once a year. When you have the best starter available in Madison Bumgarner and the best reliever available in Will Smith, you gotta make those deals. That’s what I’d probably do if I ran the Giants and I think that that’s, wisely, what Zaidi will do.

Still, it’s an odd look, less for the Giants specifically than for baseball as a whole. We may in an era of cheap front offices who don’t like to contend if it means spending money, but it’s unfair to paint the Giants with that brush. They’ve spent money and acquired talent and have done whatever they can to extend their 2010-2014 mini-dynasty a few more years and in doing so they’ve made a lot of fans happy. That team has pretty much reached the end and, even in an earlier, more competitive era, they’d not be properly criticized for starting in on a rebuild. Heck, they’d be excused if they had done it a year or two earlier, frankly.

But, because so many teams have punted on improving themselves, these aging Giants are at least superficially competitive. As such, when they do sell off in the coming days, it’ll look to some like they’re waving a white flag or something when they’re not really doing that. I mean, the Rockies and the Pirates, among other teams, should be much better than they are but didn’t seem all that interested in improving, thereby helping the Giants look better, right? It’s less a knock on the Giants for rebuilding when they’re within striking distance of the playoffs than it is on the rest of the league for allowing a team like the Giants to be within striking distance of a playoff spot.

But that’s where we are right now. An insanely competitive Wild Card race from teams that, on the whole, are rather unconcerned with being competitive. What a time to be a baseball fan.