Lineups for ALCS Game 1

Justin Verlander
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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.

 

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.