Verlander named Astros' Game 1 starter vs. Sale

Cleveland Indians Michael Brantley walks into the batting cage during a team workout Wednesday Oct. 4 2017 in Cleveland. The Indians are scheduled to play the New York Yankees in Game 1 of an ALDS on Thursday

Cleveland Indians Michael Brantley walks into the batting cage during a team workout Wednesday Oct. 4 2017 in Cleveland. The Indians are scheduled to play the New York Yankees in Game 1 of an ALDS on Thursday

We've surely experienced our share of unexpected occurrences during this baseball season in NY, both exhilarating and maddening, but none of them -not Aaron Judge's out-of-nowhere emergence into stardom nor the litany of injuries and other problems that befell the Mets - were as remarkably unforeseen as the Cleveland Indians rattling off 22 wins in a row on their way to the AL division series that begins Thursday night at Progressive Field. General rule of thumb: You start your ace in the first game of a series, especially in a short series when winning Game 1 is even more important.

But let's talk our way through this. "We've been so good for six months, '" Pluto said.

Still, that doesn't explain the decision.

The move was expected after Bautista batted just.203 and set a franchise record with 170 strikeouts this season.

Last October was a rare instance where the team with the best record in baseball won the World Series, which is something to keep in mind before laying the favorite. In an interesting move, Manager Terry Francona has opted not to start ace Corey Kluber, the potential AL Cy Young victor, in Game 1 against the Yankees but in Game 2 to keep Kluber on regular rest. Note the difference in results. Inside the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, he was 9-3 with a 3.22 ERA - hence Girardi holding him back for Game 3 in the Bronx.

"From the moment I stepped foot in the clubhouse, it was something that I was hoping to do, " Gray said of starting a Yankees playoff series.

St. Louis pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and bullpen coach Blaise Ilsley will not return to the team's coaching staff next season.

Kluber will pitch Game 2.

Joe Smith, Tyler Olson, Zach McAllister, Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen worked 3 1/3 scoreless (and hitless) innings out of the Tribe bullpen to secure Tomlin's 10th win of the season. It also means Kluber would be available for a potential Game 5 on regular rest. The Indians clearly have mapped this out and decided Kluber isn't going to start on short rest. We saw this last postseason. Which, given how things have gone so far in the postseason, is more likely than not.

Chad Green came out of the bullpen to put on a tourniquet with two big strikeouts to end the inning.

Now, there's a chance this could all backfire.

When he got hurt in August, Brantley - and the Indians - feared he might be through for 2017.

Justin Verlander was not even a member of the Houston Astros five weeks ago, but he will be their starting pitcher in Thursday's Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox.

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