[ESPN] Houston Astros to start Framber Valdez in Game 1 of ALCS - Houston Astros lefty Framber Valdez will start Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday, while Lance McCullers will start Game 2. “I feel really proud and really thankful for the opportunity this year,” Valdez told reporters on Saturday. “It means a lot to me for the manager to show that much confidence in me. I’ve demonstrated they can have that confidence in me with the effort I put forth this season. I’m super thankful for the moment and super happy to be here.” In two postseason starts, the 26-year-old Valdez have given up 2 runs on seven hits in 12 innings with 9 strikeouts and 2 walks. During the regular season, he was 5-3 with a 3.57 ERA and 76 strikeouts.
[Sports Illustrated] Three Questions That Will Decide the Astros-Rays ALCS - For the first five games of the postseason, there wasn’t a better hitter on the planet than Rays left fielder Randy Arozarena—he batted .600 with three homers and 1.886 OPS—before the Yankees finally held him hitless in Game 4 and 5 of the ALDS. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before where a guy punishes every single mistake,” said Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka after Game 3, when Arozarena went 3-for-4 with a home run. “We can’t get away with anything against him right now.” Those mistakes were thrown by the likes of veterans Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka, among others. What happens against Houston’s eight rookie relievers? Because it’s so difficult to score against the Rays’ pitching staff, any mistakes Astros pitchers make could have major consequences on the series, especially mistakes to Arozarena.
[MLB.com] GM facing old team; ALCS roster - When the Rays secured the final out of the American League Division Series on Friday night to eliminate the Yankees, James Click’s phone started buzzing. And buzzing. And buzzing. That’s what happens when you’re in baseball and you’re set to face your former team in the AL Championship Series. “It was a big night for that organization and team, and I’m happy for them,” he said. Click, who was hired as the Astros’ general manager in February after 14 years in the Rays’ organization, spent a few minutes congratulating his former colleagues before drawing a line. Click turned his focus to beating the Rays, who had the best record in the AL and are one of the smartest organizations in baseball. “On a scale from one to weird, it’s going to be weird,” Click said. “It’s something that all of us in this industry, or are lucky enough to be in this industry long enough, are going to face at some point. It’s not just me. There’s a lot of people who have a history with the Astros. … There’s a lot of people who contribute to this team. My focus right now is putting the Astros in the best position right now to beat them.”
[MLB.com] Altanta Braves NLCS pitching rotation - Max Fried will take the mound for Game 1 of the Braves’ National League Championship Series showdown with the Dodgers, followed by rookie sensation Ian Anderson in Game 2 and Kyle Wright in Game 3. Los Angeles will counter with Walker Buehler in the opener and Clayton Kershaw in Game 2, while its Game 3 starter has not been announced. The Braves are 12-1 in Fried’s starts this season, including 2-0 in the postseason. The left-hander will be making his third straight Game 1 start after going 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 11 regular-season outings. He allowed four runs in four innings against the Marlins in Game 1 of the NL Division Series after tossing seven scoreless innings in Atlanta’s postseason opener against the Reds. Fried took a no-decision in both.
[Yahoo Sports] Dodgers, Braves chasing end to MLB title droughts - The Dodgers are trying for their third World Series appearance in four years, but they have not captured the crown since 1988, losing to Houston in 2017 and Boston in 2018. Atlanta last won the crown in 1995 and until this year, the Braves had not won a playoff series since 2001, dropping 10 in a row. The Dodgers produced the best record in this coronavirus-shortened campaign at 43-17, leading the major leagues with 118 home runs and 385 total runs, one better than Atlanta.
Around the League
[ESPN] Jimmie Lee Solomon, ex-MLB executive, dead at 64 - Jimmie Lee Solomon, a top executive for Major League Baseball under commissioner Bud Selig who established youth academies and helped launch the annual Futures Game of top prospects, has died. He was 64. Solomon was among the highest-ranking Black officials in baseball when he left in 2012. His daughter, Tricia Solomon, said Friday that he was found dead at his house in Houston and the cause was not immediately known. “I am surprised and saddened by the news of the passing of our former colleague,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Jimmie Lee was passionate about providing opportunities to young athletes and advancing baseball in our communities. Our network of youth academies across the country is in large part a credit to his hard work and dedication.”
[Call To The Pen] 2020: The MLB Hall of Fame’s doleful year - The MLB Hall of Fame has never experienced a year like 2020. And if it is very fortunate, it never will again, either. Forget the canceled induction ceremony and the greatly diminished crowds, both brought about by Covid-19. Friday’s loss of Whitey Ford brings to five the number of baseball immortals who went the way of all flesh this calendar year, matching the worst death toll since the Hall was created. Beyond that, four of the five were first-ballot selections, and the fifth — Ford – was elevated in his second year on the ballot. As a group, their contributions to the game’s lore may be unmatched. They won a collective 12 World Series rings and 798 games, got 6,030 base hits, struck out 8,713 opposing batters, captured eight stolen base crowns, one batting title, a Rookie of The Year, an MVP, and six Cy Young Awards. All Star Game appearances? Don’t even ask. OK, ask. There were 53 of them. It is probable that never in the Hall’s history has so much of its history been taken from it in one year. In fact, only twice previously in that history have as many as five inductees died in the same year.
[MLB.com] Nationals continue coaching shuffle - Hitting coach Kevin Long is not expected to return for the 2021 season, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. According to a source, Long and the Nationals could not come to terms for a new deal, and the club granted him permission to speak with other teams. Long’s three-year contract expires at the end of the month. Third-base coach Chip Hale also will not return next year, per a source. Hale was the Nationals’ bench coach from 2018-19 before moving to the role at third base this season. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman was the first to report of Hale’s departure. The club has not confirmed either of the coaching changes.