• LEADING OFF: Nats, Cards open NLCS, Yanks-Astros set in ALCS

    By: The Associated Press

    Updated:

    A look at what's happening around the majors today:

    WELCOME TO THE NLCS

    The Washington Nationals play in the NL Championship Series for the first time, taking on St. Louis at Busch Stadium. Aníbal Sánchez starts for the Nats against Miles Mikolas.

    Both teams won a deciding Game 5 on the road in the NL Division Series. The Cardinals scored 10 runs in the first inning and romped past Atlanta 13-1 while Washington rallied late and beat the Dodgers 7-3 in 10 innings.

    Nationals aces Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin all got plenty of work in the NLDS. Sánchez was 11-8 with a 3.85 ERA this season, then gave up one run in five innings in his lone appearance against Los Angeles.

    Washington manager Dave Martinez says he hasn't decided how he will line up the rest of his starting staff after Sánchez. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said Adam Wainwright will start Game 2, followed by Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson, who will be available out of the bullpen at the beginning of the series.

    MAMMOTH MATCHUP

    Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and the Houston Astros are set to meet Gleyber Torres, Aaron Judge and the New York Yankees in a highly anticipated AL Championship Series beginning Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.

    The pitching-rich Astros led the majors with 107 wins, and are expected to start Zack Greinke in the opener. The Yankees posted 103 victories and could go with either James Paxton or Masahiro Tanaka in Game 1.

    These teams have recently met in the playoffs. Houston won the 2015 AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium, and also topped New York in a seven-game ALCS in 2017 on the way to its first World Series title.

    The Astros went 4-3 against the Yankees this season.

    REVVED REDBIRDS

    No telling what Cardinals manager Mike Shildt might say in the closed - and camera-free - locker room to fire up his team before the NLCS opener. Usually mild mannered, his curse-filled clubhouse victory speech after St. Louis battered Atlanta in the NLDS clincher went viral when a player posted it on social media.

    Shildt was sorry his colorful language got leaked, but didn't feel bad about the gist of his message.

    "It's regretful that that was able to get out," Shildt said Thursday, a day after the 13-1 romp. "I will not apologize for having passion about how I feel about our team and the accomplishments of our team."

    The video was posted by Cardinals rookie Randy Arozarena. Shildt said he harbored no ill will toward the 24-year-old outfielder.

    "As far as Randy goes," Shildt said, "I completely give Randy grace. He was just excited. He's a great kid with a great heart."

    CHECK THEM

    The Nationals will see how catcher Kurt Suzuki and outfielder Victor Robles are feeling before Game 1. Manager Dave Martinez said X-rays showed nothing broken on the hand of Suzuki, who was hit by a pitch Wednesday night. The ball ricocheted and hit Suzuki in the head - he was going to go through concussion protocol in St. Louis. Robles, who missed the last two games of the series against the Dodgers with a strained right hamstring, will be examined to determine his status.

    VACANCY

    The Phillies have become the eighth team to head into the offseason looking for a new manager. They fired Gabe Kapler, nearly two weeks after a disappointing finish to a season of big expectations highlighted by Bryce Harper's arrival.

    Kapler went 161-163 in two years, his team unable to deliver following its offseason spending spree. Philadelphia finished 81-81, its first nonlosing season since 2012.

    The skipper carousel has been spinning. San Francisco's Bruce Bochy and Kansas City's Ned Yost retired, San Diego's Andy Green, Pittsburgh's Clint Hurdle, the Mets' Mickey Callaway and the Angels' Brad Ausmus were fired, and the Cubs and Joe Maddon jointly said he would leave.

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