By The Associated Press
A look at what’s happening around the majors today:
In a star-studded matchup that’s a perfect fit for Hollywood, the Nationals and Dodgers begin their best-of-five Division Series in Los Angeles. Walker Buehler (14-4, 3.26 ERA) gets the start for the Dodgers against left-hander Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.25). That means for the second straight year, Clayton Kershaw won’t be opening the postseason for LA.
A year ago, the Dodgers went with Hyun-Jin Ryu against Atlanta, ending Kershaw’s streak of six consecutive playoff appearances starting Game 1. “Around here I don’t know if one, two or three really matters,” Buehler said. “The order’s a little bit less significant than people want to make it out to be.”
LET’S GET IT STARTED
The first Division Series game of 2019 features Paul Goldschmidt and the St. Louis Cardinals facing the NL East champion Braves in Atlanta, where Hall of Famer Chipper Jones will throw out the first pitch. Freddie Freeman (right elbow) and Ronald Acuña Jr. (left hip), two keys to Atlanta’s lineup who sustained late-season injuries, say they are healthy. Both played in a simulated game Tuesday.
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said second baseman Kolten Wong, who missed two weeks with a hamstring injury, will start Game 1.
Miles Mikolas (9-14, 4.16 ERA) makes his first playoff start for St. Louis opposite veteran left-hander Dallas Keuchel (8-8, 3.75). The 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner signed a one-year deal with Atlanta on June 7 and is 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 10 postseason games with Houston.
“I think when we signed him, we envisioned him making this opening start,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
HOUSTON, HERE WE COME
Yandy Díaz and the Tampa Bay Rays, baseball’s lowest-spending team, have earned a playoff matchup with mighty Houston.
After appearing in only one game since late July because of a foot injury, Díaz hit a leadoff homer and another long ball Wednesday night as the Rays beat Oakland 5-1 in the AL wild-card game behind postseason pitching star Charlie Morton.
Tampa Bay stays on the road to open a Division Series on Friday against the AL West champion Astros, who piled up a major league-best 107 wins this season. It will be a reunion of sorts for Morton, who won Game 7 of the ALCS and World Series for Houston in 2017.
The Rays, who went 96-66 this season, had the smallest payroll in the majors at $66.4 million but were 4-3 against the Astros.
“It’s a beautiful thing having the lowest payroll in baseball and having the success we did,” center fielder Kevin Kiermaier said before the wild-card game. “It always feels good to stick it to the man any time you’re able to in this game, and that’s something to be very proud of.”
Houston manager AJ Hinch expects Carlos Correa to play Friday in the team’s playoff opener against Tampa Bay.
Correa missed the final week of the regular season because of a sore back, but Hinch said Wednesday the star shortstop has been working out all week and feels great.
The 25-year-old Correa played just 75 games this season after sitting out from May 26 to July 26 with a broken rib. He missed a month with the back problem, which also caused him to sit out last week. He batted .279 with 21 homers and 59 RBIs.
Hinch said Justin Verlander will start Game 1 against the Rays, followed by Gerrit Cole on Saturday in Game 2 and Zack Greinke in the third game. Hinch wouldn’t commit to a potential Game 4 starter.
The Twins and Yankees are scheduled to work out at Yankee Stadium ahead of their playoff opener Friday night.
New York slugger Edwin Encarnación, who hasn’t played since Sept. 12 because of a strained left oblique, appears set to return. The 36-year-old hit in a simulated game for the second straight day Wednesday and homered off left-hander Jordan Montgomery.
“I think yesterday was a little confidence-builder for him as far as the ability to let it go and then coming in today feeling like he’s ready,” manager Aaron Boone said.
Gio Urshela, who grabbed the third base job after Miguel Andújar got hurt, ended the season in a 3-for-28 slide and sprained his left ankle in Sunday’s finale. Urshela tested the ankle Wednesday and said he was ready to play.