Gerrit Cole
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Rays, Astros lineups for ALDS Game 2

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The Rays came up short against the Astros on Friday, falling 6-2 in ALDS Game 1 as José Altuve and Yuli Gurriel came up with a handful of pivotal plays to supplement seven innings of one-hit, eight-strikeout ball from Justin Verlander. The Rays mounted an eighth-inning rally with a couple of runs off of Ryan Pressly, but it barely made a dent in the Astros’ six-run lead.

In a nutshell: “We got Verlander-ed,” Rays manager Kevin Cash told reporters after the game.

Game 1 may have tested the Rays’ mettle, but they’re hardly on the brink of playoff elimination here. They’ll send 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell to the mound for Game 2 in an attempt to even the series.

  1. Yandy Díaz (R) 3B
  2. Austin Meadows (L) LF
  3. Tommy Pham (R) DH
  4. Ji-Man Choi (L) 1B
  5. Avisaíl García (R) RF
  6. Brandon Lowe (L) 2B
  7. Travis d'Arnaud (R) C
  8. Kevin Kiermaier (L) CF
  9. Willy Adames (R) SS

P: LHP Blake Snell

Díaz replaces Meadows at the top of the lineup, with Meadows in the no. 2 spot and Choi batting cleanup. Joey Wendle will be available off the bench as García takes his spot in the lineup for his first postseason appearance since the Wild Card Game.

Understandably, the Astros won’t be tinkering too much with their lineup. Their main weapon, of course, will be Gerrit Cole — a three-time All-Star who finished the regular season with a 20-5 record, 2.50 ERA, and league-best 326 strikeouts.

  1. George Springer (R) CF
  2. José Altuve (R) 2B
  3. Michael Brantley (L) LF
  4. Alex Bregman (R) 3B
  5. Yordan Alvarez (L) DH
  6. Yuli Gurriel (R) 1B
  7. Carlos Correa (R) SS
  8. Kyle Tucker (L) RF
  9. Martín Maldonado (R) C

P: RHP Gerrit Cole

The only notable changes here: Robinson Chirinos will be replaced behind the plate by Maldonado, while rookie Tucker will take over for Josh Reddick in right field.

Game 2 of the ALDS is scheduled for 9:07 PM EDT.

Braves sign Marcell Ozuna to one-year, $18 million deal

Marcell Ozuna
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The Braves have announced on Tuesday evening the signing of free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that it’s a one-year contract for $18 million.

Ozuna, 29, hit .241/.328/.472 with 29 home runs, 89 RBI, 80 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases in 549 plate appearances for the Cardinals last season. He’s been consistently above-average in each of the past four seasons, which also included a career year in 2017 in which he was worth 6.1 WAR, per Baseball Reference.

It is surprising that Ozuna, a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner, had to settle for a one-year deal. The Braves are happy he did as he will help make up for some of the offense lost when third baseman Josh Donaldson became a free agent and ultimately signed with the Twins. Ozuna can become a free agent again after the 2020 season but won’t have qualifying offer compensation attached to him, part of the reason why his market may have been slow to develop.

Along with Ozuna, the Braves have signed in free agency this offseason reliever Will Smith, starter Cole Hamels, and catcher Travis d'Arnaud. They re-signed relievers Chris Martin and Darren O'Day, catcher Tyler Flowers, infielder Adeiny Hechavarría, and outfielder Nick Markakis.