2018 MLB Baseball Latest News Betting Lines, Free Picks and Prediction


Updated: Friday, October 5, 2018

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MLB notebook: Yanks tab Happ for Game 1 vs. Red Sox

The New York Yankees will counter ace left-hander Chris Sale with a southpaw of their own, sending J.A. Happ to the mound against the Red Sox for Game 1 of the teams' American League Division Series on Friday night at Fenway Park in Boston.

Happ hasn't lost since joining the Yankees via trade from the Toronto Blue Jays in July. He's 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts for New York.

More importantly, Happ went 1-1 with a 1.99 ERA in four starts against the Red Sox between the Yankees and Blue Jays during the regular season. He faced Boston last Friday, allowing four runs on four hits with seven strikeouts over six innings.

For his career, Happ is 8-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 21 games (20 starts) against the Red Sox.

--Injured Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson and Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star right-hander Ross Stripling are officially unavailable for the National League Division Series, as both were left off their teams' 25-man rosters.

Swanson's absence was expected as he recovers from a partially torn ligament in his left hand, which happened during a swing in a game early last week. Charlie Culberson, a former Dodger, will start in Swanson's stead.

Stripling, who went 8-6 with a 3.02 ERA in 33 outings (21 starts) in the regular season, was left off L.A.'s roster in favor of veteran reliever 38-year-old reliever Ryan Madson, as the Dodgers opted for eight relievers and four starters. Also left off the Dodgers' roster is 16th-year veteran second baseman Chase Utley, who plans to retire after the season.

--The Houston Astros bypassed right-handed relievers Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski while finalizing their 25-man roster for the American League Division Series.

Rookie right-hander Josh James, who has made six major league appearances, landed the final 11-person pitching spot over Peacock and Devenski, who were valuable members of Houston's World Series championship team last season. Also passed over for the series against the Cleveland Indians were veteran right-handers Joe Smith and Hector Rondon.

Another surprise roster choice was outfielder Myles Straw, who was recalled in mid-September and has nine career at-bats. Straw will likely be utilized as a pinch runner, and his addition left catcher Max Stassi off the roster. The Indians also released their ALDS roster and veteran outfielder Rajai Davis landed the final spot over infielder Erik Gonzalez.

Rookies James, Straw make Astros' ALDS roster

The Houston Astros bypassed right-handed relievers Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski while finalizing their 25-man roster for the American League Division Series, formally released Thursday afternoon.

Rookie right-hander Josh James, who has made six major league appearances, landed the final 11-person pitching spot over Peacock and Devenski, who were valuable members of Houston's World Series championship team last season.

Also passed over for the series against the Cleveland Indians were veteran right-handers Joe Smith and Hector Rondon.

Another surprise roster choice was outfielder Myles Straw, who was recalled in mid-September and has nine career at-bats. Straw will likely be utilized as a pinch runner, and his addition left catcher Max Stassi off the roster.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch found nothing easy about selecting the right relievers.

"By far, one of the most difficult decisions -- and really I say them as a group because there's some really, really good relievers that pitch well for us that carried the bullpen at certain times," Hinch told reporters. "With Hector, he had a tough month. September was really his only bad month. He wasn't great in the second half as a whole, but most of that is weighted into September.

"Honestly, this is a very difficult offense to match up with, and some of the things that he does and some of his execution that he does didn't match up very well with very many areas of the lineup with the Indians."

The Indians also released their ALDS roster and veteran outfielder Rajai Davis landed the final spot over infielder Erik Gonzalez.

"No one has a crystal ball, but we went with who had a better chance to impact a series, and we felt like Raj had a better chance," manager Terry Francona told reporters. "It's nothing against Gonzy. But if Gonzy gets in, that meant something went wrong.

"If something goes wrong, we might be kicking ourselves, but I think we felt like the risk is worth the reward."

The series begins Friday in Houston. Right-hander Justin Verlander will starts for the Astros against Indians right-hander Corey Kluber.

Yanks tab Happ for Game 1 vs. Red Sox

The New York Yankees will counter ace left-hander Chris Sale with a southpaw of their own, sending J.A. Happ to the mound against the Red Sox for Game 1 of the teams' American League Division Series on Friday night at Fenway Park in Boston.

Happ hasn't lost since joining the Yankees via trade from the Toronto Blue Jays in July. He's 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts for New York.

More important, Happ went 1-1 with a 1.99 ERA in four starts against the Red Sox between the Yankees and Blue Jays during the regular season. He faced Boston last Friday, allowing four runs on four hits with seven strikeouts over six innings.

For his career, Happ is 8-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 21 games (20 starts) against the Red Sox.

The 35-year-old is 1-1 with a 3.72 ERA in 10 postseason games (three starts).

The Yankees used ace right-hander Luis Severino to get past the Oakland Athletics in Wednesday's AL wild-card game. They will start right-hander Masahiro Tanaka in Game 2 opposite Red Sox lefty David Price.

Sale will start Game 1 for Boston despite his velocity hovering much lower than usual in his final start of the regular season on Sept. 26. He spent two separate stints on the DL due to mild left shoulder inflammation during the second half of the season.

"I don't care what I have on a given day, I should be able to find a way with whatever I have," Sale said Thursday. "Sometimes you go out there and have your best, sometimes you don't. This is sport. This is baseball. You have to find a way with whatever you have on any given day and roll with it. So I take the ball tomorrow and I expect to win."

Braves' Swanson, Dodgers' Stripling off NLDS rosters

Injured Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson and Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star right-hander Ross Stripling are officially unavailable for the National League Division Series, as both were left off their teams' 25-man rosters.

Swanson's absence was expected as he recovers from a partially torn ligament in his left hand, which happened during a swing in a game early last week. On Wednesday night, manager Brian Snitker was pessimistic about Swanson's availability, though he said the shortstop is progressing. Charlie Culberson, a former Dodger, will start in Swanson's stead.

Stripling, who went 8-6 with a 3.02 ERA in 33 outings (21 starts) in the regular season, was left off L.A.'s roster in favor of veteran reliever Ryan Madson, as the Dodgers opted for eight relievers and four starters.

Stripling was 0-4 with a 6.41 ERA in eight games (seven starts) since the All-Star break, spending two separate stints on the disabled list with right first toe inflammation and lower back inflammation. He was 8-2 with a 2.08 ERA in 25 games (14 starts) in the first half.

Madson, 38, went 2-5 with a 5.47 ERA between the Dodgers and Washington Nationals this year, but the Dodgers expect his changeup to be effective against a young Braves lineup. L.A.'s four starters will be Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler and Rich Hill.

Culberson, 29, shined as a utility player for Atlanta this season, hitting .270 with 12 homers and 45 RBIs in 113 games.

"He's probably been arguably maybe our most valuable player," Snitker said of Culberson, who arrived from the Dodgers in exchange for Matt Kemp in the offseason.

Swanson, the 2015 No. 1 overall pick, batted .238 with 14 homers and 59 RBIs in 136 regular-season games.

Among those left off the Dodgers' roster is 16th-year veteran second baseman Chase Utley. The 39-year-old batted .213 with a homer and 14 RBIs in 87 regular-season games and will retire after the season.

Take 5: Breakout stars of the MLB postseason

In a game in which stars Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton each hit home runs, a relatively unknown first baseman had perhaps the biggest hit of all for the New York Yankees in their American League wild-card win over the Oakland Athletics.

Luke Voit stepped up with runners on first and third in the sixth inning and launched a two-run triple off the top of the wall in right field. The hit gave the Yankees a 5-0 lead and represented a finishing nail in the coffin of the A's, who were unable to regain momentum and eventually fell 7-2.

Voit, 27, is in his second year in the majors. A 22nd-round pick in 2013 by the Cardinals, he has never generated much fanfare, and when the Yankees acquired him from St. Louis in July, few took notice.

Voit's Yankees career got off to a slow start, and he was demoted to the minors on Aug. 13. He returned just over a week later, and has been on fire since, launching 14 home runs -- 10 in September -- and carving a role for himself in the middle of the Yankees' lineup.

As New York heads to Boston to face the Red Sox in what should be a highly publicized AL Division Series, Voit's hot streak has him in position to further make a name for himself. October baseball has a way of making legends out of relative unknowns -- just ask Voit's manager, Aaron Boone -- and this year figures to see more than a handful of players thrust themselves into the spotlight.

Here are four more names you could see break out this postseason.

4. David Dahl, Colorado Rockies

Dahl is red-hot entering the divisional round of the playoffs. The 24-year-old outfielder homered in six of his final seven regular-season games, earning himself the No. 3 spot in Colorado's loaded lineup against right-handed starters. A former top prospect, Dahl made his debut with the Rockies in 2016. He didn't play for Colorado in 2017, missing nearly the entire season with a stress reaction injury to a rib and subsequent back spasms. A right foot fracture sidelined him for some time this season, but he hit .298 in September and is now a regular in the Rockies' lineup. Dahl went 0-for-6 against Jon Lester and the Chicago Cubs in the NL wild-card game, but against the Brewers' righty heavy pitching staff, he should have a better chance to make an impact.

3. Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers

It isn't often a rookie pitcher gets his number called in a must-win game, but Buehler got the nod against the Rockies in the NL West tiebreaker and delivered. The 24-year-old right-hander pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit, and earned the win to send the Dodgers straight through to the division round. Buehler posted a 2.62 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) this season, and since the start of August, he is 4-1 with a 1.58 ERA in 11 starts. Buehler is expected to pitch Game 3 of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves behind Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw in Games 1 and 2, respectively. If his demeanor in the tiebreaker proved anything, Buehler won't be fazed by the big stage.

2. Mike Foltynewicz, Atlanta Braves

Another young pitcher to watch in the Braves-Dodgers series is Foltynewicz, and it won't take long for us to see how he fares in his first postseason appearance. The 26-year-old right-hander will pitch Game 1 for Atlanta after an All-Star season that saw him post a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts, strike out 202 batters in 183 innings and hold opponents to a .195 batting average, the third-lowest mark in the majors. Foltynewicz, acquired by the Braves from the Houston Astros in 2015, showed flashes of promise over his first three years in Atlanta's rotation, though he never posted an ERA lower than 4.31. Now he has put it all together, and he has the chance to turn heads by putting the defending NL champions in an early hole.

1. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians

Ramirez is already a bona fide stud and AL MVP candidate for the Indians, but his poor performance in last year's ALDS upset by the Yankees is holding him back from reaching that next level of super stardom. Ramirez went just 2-for-20 with two singles in that series, as the Indians went on to blow a 2-0 lead and fail to get another chance at their first World Series win since 1948. Now, Ramirez has upped his game to new heights, completing his first 30-30 season with career highs of 39 home runs and 34 stolen bases. Since the start of August, Ramirez has slumped from a .301 batting average down to .270, though he will be counted on to get the Indians past the defending champion Astros and back to the AL Championship Series. If the 26-year-old leads Cleveland to its first title in 70 years, he'll be sure to earn the respect he deserves.

Brewers RHP Woodruff to open Game 1 of NLDS

Right-hander Brandon Woodruff will serve as the "opener" when the Milwaukee Brewers host the Colorado Rockies in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Thursday.

Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell announced Wednesday that the team would go with a bullpen game for the opener. The Brewers list 11 pitchers on their 25-player NLDS roster released Thursday.

Woodruff made 19 appearances for Milwaukee this season with 15 coming in relief. He went 3-0 with a 3.61 ERA.

He had a strong September, going 1-0 with an 0.73 ERA and one save. Woodruff struck out 16 in 12 1/3 innings during seven relief appearances last month.

He also made 17 starts at Triple-A Colorado Springs and went 3-2 with a 4.04 ERA this season.

All eight of Woodruff's 2017 appearances for Milwaukee came in a starting role.

Colorado released its NLDS roster and listed 12 pitchers.

Right-hander Antonio Senzatela (6-6, 4.38 ERA) is starting Game 1 for the Rockies.

Braves tab RHP Sanchez for Game 2 vs. Dodgers

The Atlanta Braves will follow Game 1 starter Mike Foltynewicz with veteran right-hander Anibal Sanchez in Game 2 of their National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Sanchez will take the mound Friday opposite Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

Getting the call in Game 2 shows how far Sanchez has come in the last year. He posted a 6.41 ERA in 28 games (17 starts) with the Detroit Tigers last season, the final year of a five-year, $80 million contract.

Sanchez originally signed with the Minnesota Twins last offseason, but he was released early during spring training.

Sanchez, 34, caught on with Atlanta on a minor league deal and has been a revelation for the Braves, posting a 2.83 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) during the regular season.

Game 1 on Thursday will see Foltynewicz pitch opposite Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Brewers to use bullpen to start Game 1 of NLDS

The Milwaukee Brewers have opted not to tab a starter for Game 1 of their National League Division Series against the Colorado Rockies, instead employing a "bullpen day."

The Rockies, meanwhile, will send second-year right-hander Antonio Senzatela to the mound in the series opener Thursday.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell told reporters Wednesday that he would lean on his bullpen in the first game, though he didn't reveal which reliever will take the mound first.

"Everybody is rested. That's the first thing," said Counsell. "And I think for our team, we have -- largely, we're trying to get away from what the word 'starter' and 'reliever' means. That's how we're going to get through the postseason, I think."

The Milwaukee bullpen could be leaned upon again on Friday -- Counsell has tabbed right-hander Jhoulys Chacin on three days' rest for Game 2. Chacin threw 75 pitches in 5 1/3 innings of the team's NL Central tiebreaker win over the Chicago Cubs on Monday.

In that victory, Josh Hader pitched the final two innings, as typical closer Jeremy Jeffress was unavailable for an undisclosed reason. Counsell and general manager David Stearns each confirmed that Jeffress will be a go for the NLDS.

"He is perfectly fine. He's on the roster, no restrictions," Counsell said. "If we feel like we've got a win that we can lock down, we can do it (Thursday). And then maybe we've got to scramble in Game 2, but then we've got fully rested guys, where we can do it in Game 3, too. That's a good feeling.

"I'm thinking that (Jeffress) could play a really big role. Bigger than I thought after Saturday, when he had pitched a couple days in a row. Now, I'm thinking he can play a huge role in this series. And the fact he didn't pitch Monday is really important."

Senzatela last pitched Sept. 27, when he gave up one run in 4 2/3 innings during a no-decision against the Philadelphia Phillies. He posted his lowest monthly ERA of the season in September, 3.25, to finish with a 6-6 mark and a 4.38 ERA in 23 games (13 starts).

According to MLB.com, Rockies manager Bud Black is "leaning" toward starting lefty Tyler Anderson (7-9, 4.55 ERA) in Game 2 on Friday. That would leave the club's top two starters, left-hander Kyle Freeland (17-7, 2.85) and right-hander German Marquez (14-11, 3.77) for Games 3 and 4 in Colorado.

Marquez started the NL West tiebreaker game Monday at Los Angeles, allowing four runs (two earned) in 4 2/3 innings and taking the loss as the Rockies fell 5-2 to the Dodgers.

Freeland pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings Tuesday in the Rockies' 2-1, 13-inning win over the host Chicago Cubs in the NL wild-card game.

Both teams will release their full NLDS rosters on Thursday.

MLB notebook: O's fire Showalter, Duquette

Buck Showalter is out as manager of the Baltimore Orioles, and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette was fired, too, the team announced Wednesday night.

Director of player development Brian Graham will run the baseball operations department while the club looks for someone outside the organization to fill the role, according to the team. The new GM will hire the new manager, per the club's press release.

Showalter, 62, managed the Orioles for parts of nine seasons, and his 669 wins with the franchise trail only Hall of Fame member Earl Weaver (1,480). Duquette, 60, had been with Baltimore since 2011, after nine years away from Major League Baseball. He had served as general manager of the Boston Red Sox from 1994-2002.

Baltimore experienced a dreadful 47-115 campaign this season to set the worst mark in franchise history.

--Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is coming back for a fifth season, team president Theo Epstein confirmed.

There had been some speculation about Maddon's future in Chicago following a disappointing finish. The Cubs, who had the best record in the National League for much of the second half this season, lost an NL Central tiebreaker to Milwaukee on Monday and lost the NL wild-card game to Colorado on Tuesday to be eliminated from the postseason.

USA Today reported Maddon will not be offered a contract extension, as he enters the final year of a five-year, $25 million pact.

--Cubs shortstop Addison Russell received a 40-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's domestic abuse policy, the league announced.

The unpaid suspension is retroactive to Sept. 21, when the league placed Russell on administrative leave. Russell has agreed not to appeal the ban and will participate in a supervised treatment program, according to the league.

Russell has denied the claims by his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy-Russell, that he was physically, emotionally and verbally abusive during their relationship.

--The New York Yankees left first baseman Greg Bird off their American League wild-card roster, instead opting for hot-hitting Luke Voit.

Bird's omission was the biggest surprise as the Yankees announced their roster prior to Wednesday night's one-game matchup against the Oakland Athletics.

Voit, 27, was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in late July and later was sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre by the Yankees. But he has swung a hot bat since his return to the majors, hitting .351 with 14 homers, with 10 of the blasts coming in September.

Cubs SS Russell gets 40-game ban for alleged domestic abuse

Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell received a 40-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's domestic abuse policy, the league announced Wednesday.

The unpaid suspension is retroactive to Sept. 21, when the league placed Russell on administrative leave.

Russell has agreed not to appeal the ban and will participate in a supervised treatment program, according to the league.

Commissioner Rob Manfred released the following statement:

"My office has completed its investigation into the allegations that Addison Russell violated Major League Baseball's Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy. Having reviewed all of the available evidence, I have concluded that Mr. Russell violated the Policy and should be subject to discipline in the form of an unpaid suspension that will cover 40 games."

Russell has denied the claims by his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy-Russell, that he was physically, emotionally and verbally abusive during their relationship.

"These allegations are completely false. ... I'm confident any full and fair investigation will fully exonerate me," he said in a statement released last month through the MLB Players Association.

An All-Star in 2016, Russell batted .250 with 38 RBIs in 130 games this season. He was not on the Cubs' postseason roster. Chicago's season ended with Tuesday's National League wild-card loss to the Colorado Rockies.

Cubs' prez Epstein: Maddon will be back in 2019

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is coming back for a fifth season, team president Theo Epstein said Wednesday afternoon.

"Joe's status remains unchanged," Epstein said. "He's the manager of this team. I'm very happy about that.

"I look forward to him coming back next year with some unfinished business as we all have in this organization."

There had been some speculation about Maddon's future in Chicago following a disappointing finish. The Cubs, who had the best record in the National League for much of the second half this season, lost an NL Central tiebreaker to Milwaukee on Monday and lost the NL wild-card game to Colorado on Tuesday to be eliminated from the postseason.

Epstein put the blame on the Cubs' offense, saying the team would still be in the playoffs had it scored more than one run in its three losses over the past week, including a 2-1 defeat in 13 innings Tuesday.

"Something happened in our offense in the second half where we stopped walking, we stopped hitting home runs, we stopped hitting the ball in the air and we stopped being productive," Epstein said.

USA Today reported Maddon will not be offered a contract extension, as he enters the final year of a five-year, $25 million pact.

Maddon, 64, was the National League Manager of the Year in 2015 and helped the Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years in 2016.

He has a 387-261 (.597) record with the Cubs and is 1,168-990 (.541) overall in 15 seasons as a manager, including prior stints with Tampa Bay and Anaheim.

As for the makeup of the roster, Epstein acknowledged there is plenty of work to do.

He did not commit to keeping shortstop Addison Russell, who was suspended for 40 games on Wednesday, but said the Cubs very much would like to retain left-hander Cole Hamels. Hamels was acquired from the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline.

In addition, Epstein said there is no plan for Kris Bryant to have shoulder surgery. However, the Cubs are awaiting a full medical report before giving Bryant his offseason plan.

O's part with manager Showalter, EVP Duquette

The Baltimore Orioles parted ways with manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette on Wednesday.

Showalter and Duquette each had contracts that were set to expire at the end of this month. Showalter met with Orioles ownership on Wednesday morning and was notified he wouldn't return, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The Orioles announced they would hire an executive from outside the organization to lead the baseball operations department, and that person in turn would hire a new manager. Director of player development Brian Graham will handle the day-to-day duties of the group in the interim.

Baltimore experienced a dreadful 47-115 campaign this season to set the worst mark in franchise history.

"With the conclusion of the 2018 season, the club has decided to reorganize its Baseball Operations department under new executive management," spokesman Greg Bader said in a statement on behalf of the team and its owners. "We thank Dan and Buck for their many contributions over the past several years.

"As we look forward to the next chapter of Orioles Baseball, we are grateful for the ongoing support of our fans. While this year has been a challenge, the organization is determined to grow and change in ways that will ultimately lead us back to the postseason."

Showalter, 62, managed the Orioles for parts of nine seasons, and his 669 wins with the franchise trail only Hall of Fame member Earl Weaver (1,480).

Duquette, 60, had been with Baltimore since 2011, after nine years away from Major League Baseball. He had served as general manager of the Boston Red Sox from 1994-2002.

Star shortstop Manny Machado and closer Zach Britton were traded away during the highly disappointing season.

Showalter was 669-684 during his tenure with the Orioles and guided the team to three playoff appearances. He was American League Manager of the Year in 2014, when Baltimore went 96-66 and reached the American League Championship Series before being swept by the Kansas City Royals.

Prior to Sunday's season finale, Showalter indicated he wasn't thrilled about entering a rebuilding phase.

"That's one of the things I really feel like we need to get back to, the expectations of winning," Showalter told reporters. "That's part of it. You've got to have expectations of winning, regardless of whatever they call it nowadays -- building.

"I don't believe in rebuild, the word rebuild. The first thing you have to accomplish, and one of the things I tried to do when we I got here, is to raise the expectations of winning."

Showalter has a 1,551-1,517 record in 20 seasons as a manager with the New York Yankees (1992-95), Arizona Diamondbacks (1998-2000), Texas Rangers (2003-06) and Orioles (2010-18).

Yankees select Voit over Bird for wild-card roster

The New York Yankees have left first baseman Greg Bird off their American League wild-card roster, instead opting for hot-hitting Luke Voit.

Bird's omission was the biggest surprise as the Yankees announced their roster prior to Wednesday night's one-game matchup against the Oakland Athletics.

Voit, 27, was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in late July and later was sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre by the Yankees. But he has swung a hot bat since his return to the majors by batting .351 with 14 homers, with 10 of the blasts coming in September.

Overall, he is batting .333 with 33 RBIs in 39 games with New York.

Bird was on the opposite end of the spectrum as he batted just .199 with 11 homers and 38 RBIs in 82 games. He missed the first two months of the season after undergoing ankle surgery.

Bird finished the season in a 13-for-99 slump dating back to July 31. He hit just two homers during the funk.

New York is going with a 10-man pitching staff against Oakland.

The Athletics also announced their wild-card roster and are going with 11 pitchers, including 10 relievers.

Oakland is using an "opener" in right-hander Liam Hendriks while the Yankees are starting right-hander Luis Severino.

Sox's Cora sure of Sale's health for ALDS opener

Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora is confident ace left-hander Chris Sale will be ready to go for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Friday.

Sale will start the contest despite his velocity hovering much lower than usual in his final start of the regular season on Sept. 26. He allowed three runs on four hits and a walk in 4 2/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles in the outing, though he struck out eight.

"The fact that when the game was on the line in that last one and he hit 94 mph a few times, it wasn't 99 mph, but he went from 88-89 to 94, so I know it's there," Cora said Tuesday. "The fact that he came to me right away after the game was over and he felt it on the mound and he saw it on the video, I'm like, 'OK, this is mechanics.'

"He's been going through his progress the right way. It's nothing compared to what it was the first time he went on the DL and the days after Baltimore, so that's why I'm 100 percent sure he's healthy and he's going to be fine."

Sale spent two separate stints on the DL due to mild left shoulder inflammation during the second half of the season. He was most recently activated from the DL on Sept. 11 and hasn't pitched five innings in a game since.

"He feels much better," Cora said.

Fellow southpaw David Price will pitch Game 2 for Boston, while right-hander Rick Porcello is set for Game 3.

A starter for a potential Game 4 could depend on whether the New York Yankees or the Oakland Athletics advance from the AL wild-card game on Wednesday. If it's the Yankees, Cora intends to have right-hander Nathan Eovaldi pitch the contest. If it's the A's, however, lefty Eduardo Rodriguez could get the call.

"We do feel if it's New York, Nate will pitch Game 4," said Cora. "We're pretty sure. I don't want to say 100 percent, but it's getting close to that. With the A's, we're still digging in information. We're getting close to what we want to do against them. Don't get me wrong, it's not like we've been lazy or just hanging out, but it's different. It's a team that I know we played them early, and you guys know how I feel about them, but it's a different team now. We still have to make decisions about that."

The Red Sox won't include long relievers Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez on their initial ALDS roster. Veteran infielder Brandon Phillips also won't make the cut.

MLB notebook: Molitor out as Twins manager

Paul Molitor was fired as manager of the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, though he has an offer to remain with the club in the front office.

Molitor was named American League Manager of the Year just last season and was fired with two years remaining on his contract. He posted a 305-343 record in four seasons as skipper in Minnesota.

The Twins finished in second place in the American League Central with a record of 78-84 this season. They were 85-77 last season and lost to the New York Yankees in the AL wild-card game.

--Yankees manager Aaron Boone announced right-hander Luis Severino will start against the Oakland A's on Wednesday in the American League wild-card game.

Severino, 24, went 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA and 220 strikeouts in 191 1/3 innings this season. He was 1-1 with a 6.23 ERA in two starts against Oakland.

The Athletics are starting right-hander Liam Hendriks. He made eight September starts, with only one lasting more than one inning. Right-hander Mike Fiers is expected to be the second pitcher.

--Mike Foltynewicz will take the ball for the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against Hyun-Jin Ryu and the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday.

Foltynewicz received his assignment as the Braves hit California in anticipation of the series opener at Dodger Stadium. He went 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts this season, becoming the first pitcher in Braves history to hold opponents under a .200 batting average while striking out 200 batters.

Shortstop Dansby Swanson (torn ligament in left hand) is expected to miss the series, Braves manager Brian Snitker announced. Charlie Culberson will play shortstop against his former team in Swanson's absence.

--Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes said that he definitely will be behind the plate when the American League Division Series opens Friday against the Houston Astros, despite injuring his right thumb on Saturday.

Gomes injured his throwing thumb when it accidentally hit the bat of Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon as he was trying to throw out a base-stealer. Gomes received two stitches to patch up a cut.

Gomes, 31, batted .266 with 16 homers and 48 RBIs in 112 games this season. He was selected to the AL All-Star team for the first time in his seven-year career.

Braves tab Foltynewicz opposite Ryu, Dodgers in NLDS opener

Mike Foltynewicz will take the ball for the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against Hyun-Jin Ryu and the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday.

Foltynewicz received his assignment as the Braves hit California in anticipation of the series opener at Dodger Stadium.

"We've wanted Folty to be The Guy for a couple years, and right now, I think he's establishing himself as our legit first guy," Braves manager Brian Snitker said Tuesday. "It wasn't a hard decision at all."

In 2018, Foltynewicz became the first pitcher in Braves history to hold opponents under a .200 batting average for the season while striking out 200 batters. He went 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts.

The Braves have not named a Game 2 starter, while the Dodgers have tabbed ace Clayton Kershaw for the contest.

The decision to start Ryu in the opener and Kershaw second allows both pitchers an extra day of rest after Ryu last pitched Friday and Kershaw on Saturday. Scheduled off days after Games 2 and 4 mean Kershaw could still start Game 5 on normal rest, if needed.

Ryu was 7-3 with a 1.97 ERA in 15 starts this season, missing time from May to August with a left groin strain. He had a 1.50 ERA in five September starts.

The Dodgers could have rookie right-hander Walker Buehler, who won the National League West tiebreaker game against the Colorado Rockies on Monday, start Game 3.

Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson is expected to miss the series, Snitker announced Tuesday. Swanson has ligament damage in his left hand.

Charlie Culberson will play shortstop against his former team in Swanson's absence.

Indians C Gomes aims to play opener vs. Astros

Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes said that he will definitely be behind the plate when the American League Division Series opens Friday against the Houston Astros, despite injuring his right thumb last Saturday.

"Absolutely," Gomes told reporters on Tuesday when asked if he would start the opener. "Right now it just feels like a bad cut on my hand. And it's on the outside of my thumb so the ball isn't going to rub against it or anything."

Gomes injured his throwing thumb when it accidentally hit the bat of Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon as he was trying to throw out a base stealer. Gomes received two stitches to patch up a cut.

Gomes initially thought he had broken the thumb. X-rays were negative and Gomes was relieved to hear that diagnosis.

"Right now it just feels like I've got a jammed thumb," Gomes said.

Gomes indicated he would participate in Tuesday's team workout.

"I'm hitting today," Gomes said. "I'm doing normal things. It's all just a matter of taking care of the stitches."

Gomes, 31, batted .266 with 16 homers and 48 RBIs in 112 games this season. He also was selected to the American League All-Star team for the first time in his seven-year career.

Twins fire manager Molitor

Paul Molitor was fired as manager of the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, though he has an offer to remain with the club in the front office.

"I would like to thank Paul for his tremendous dedication to the Minnesota Twins over his last four years as manager of this club," Twins executive vice president, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said in a release. "Paul's roots here run deep and his commitment to the organization, his staff, and the players is special. I have every hope and desire that he remains a part of this club for many years to come."

According to the release, "Molitor has been offered a position to stay with the organization in a baseball operations capacity and will consider the offer."

Molitor was named American League manager of the year just last season, and was fired with two years remaining on his contract. He posted a 305-343 record in four seasons as skipper in Minnesota.

The Twins finished in second place in the American League Central with a record of 78-84 this season. The Twins were 85-77 last season and lost to the New York Yankees in the AL wild-card game.

Molitor was a Hall of Fame player during 21 seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays. He had 3,319 career hits and was a seven-time All-Star.

Yankees name Severino wild-card starter; A's going with 'opener'

The New York Yankees want another crack at the Boston Red Sox, and they're hoping Luis Severino will deliver it to them.

Manager Aaron Boone on Tuesday announced the right-handed 19-game winner will start for the Yankees against the Oakland A's on Wednesday in the American League wild-card game.

"I think he's ready for this. Hopefully he can get us off to a good start tomorrow," Boone told the media Tuesday during workout day at Yankee Stadium.

The Athletics are starting right-hander Liam Hendriks. He made eight September starts with only one lasting more than one inning.

Right-hander Mike Fiers is expected to be the second pitcher.

It is believed New York was looking at three options -- Severino, J.A. Happ and Masahiro Tanaka.

"We met Saturday night as a staff and (general manager Brian Cashman) came up to Boston," Boone said, per NJ.com's Randy Miller. "We talked through it. A lot of guys had input in the decision with reasons one way or the other. I just took all that information and (slept) on it. I felt like at some point Sunday for sure that I wanted to go with Sevy in this game and that's where we're at with it."

There is no debating Severino's abilities, as evidenced by his 19-8 record, 220 strikeouts and 10.3 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio. He made a career-high 32 starts in 2018, his second straight season as an All-Star. He is also going to pitch on seven days' rest.

But if there is reason for concern, it would be in the team he is facing. Severino was 1-1 with a 6.23 ERA in two starts against Oakland this season. He surrendered six earned runs on 11 hits in 8 2/3 innings in the two starts combined.

Meanwhile, Oakland manager Bob Melvin elected to go with the "opener" strategy by beginning the game with Hendriks.

The 29-year-old is 0-1 with a 4.13 ERA in 25 appearances. Hendriks was designated for assignment in June and cleared waivers and later returned to compile a 1.38 ERA in September.

Fiers went 5-2 with a 3.74 ERA in 10 appearances (nine starts) since the Athletics acquired him from the Detroit Tigers in early August. Overall, he is 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA in 31 appearances (30 starts).

The winner of the one-game playoff will face Boston in the American League Division Series. The Red Sox set a franchise record with 108 wins this season.

The Yankees won 100 games themselves, while Oakland won 97.

Cubs closer Strop on wild-card roster

Closer Pedro Strop was on the 25-man wild card roster submitted by the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, marking his return from a hamstring injury.

Right-handed reliever Carl Edwards, who experienced forearm discomfort, was not on the roster.

Strop was under consideration to return for the win-or-go-home game against the Colorado Rockies after missing the past two weeks. Starting pitchers Cole Hamels and Kyle Hendricks were also on the wild-card roster. Manager Joe Maddon said they would be available out of the bullpen.

Chicago and Colorado were the first to whittle down their 40-man regular-season rosters, expanded from 25 on Sept. 1, back to the 25-man limit.

Officially a playoff game unlike the 163rd game tiebreakers each team played Monday, the roster limit maximum is set at 25 players.

Yanks, A's tight-lipped on wild-card starters

Two days out from the American League wild-card game, the host New York Yankees and the Oakland A's still weren't prepared to declare a starting pitcher for the Wednesday contest.

First-year Yankees manager Aaron Boone, a former ESPN analyst, texted his former television colleague Karl Ravech on Monday while Ravech was calling the Milwaukee Brewers-Chicago Cubs tiebreaker game that determined the National League Central champion.

"I know who's starting. My lips are sealed," Boone reportedly told Ravech.

The likely candidates to start for New York (100-62) are Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ.

As for the A's (97-65), manager Bob Melvin might employ an all-bullpen approach to his Wednesday pitching staff. Multiple media outlets reported that Liam Hendriks could serve as an "opener" with other bullpen arms following him to the mound.

Eight of Hendriks' 25 outings this year came as a starter, but he never pitched more than two innings. A 29-year-old Australian right-hander, Hendriks would be an extremely unusual starting pitcher for a team's playoff opener considering he had no wins this year. He went 0-1 with a 4.13 ERA.

Of the prospect of starting the wild-card game, Hendriks said Saturday, "Whatever they need me to do -- whether they want me to relieve, whether they want me to start, whether they want me to be ready in the first -- I'm just going to take it as it is. If they tell me I'm starting, I'm going to start. If they tell me going to relieve, I'm going to stay out in the bullpen and wait for that phone call."

He added of the team potentially taking an all-bullpen approach, "I think there's definitely going to be a lot more scrutiny on it. It's one of those things where if it doesn't work, it's going to be the reason, where if it does work, it will be the reason as well. Everything's going to be amplified."

Oakland's lone double-digit-winning pitcher this season, Sean Manaea, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left (pitching) shoulder on Sept. 19, ruling him out for the year.

The Athletics' other regular rotation members, with their record for Oakland this year, are Trevor Cahill (7-4), Mike Fiers (5-2), Edwin Jackson (6-3) and Brett Anderson (4-5).

The Yankees' rotation features Severino (19-8), Tanaka (12-6), Happ (7-7) and CC Sabathia (9-7), but there is a chance New York could play a bullpen game Wednesday, too.

"I think that's absolutely a consideration," Boone said Sept. 26 on ESPN Radio's "The Michael Kay Show." "I could see them pitching well and not necessarily going deep in the game because, of course, we do have those guys (in the bullpen). They'll be rested. They'll be lined up to go. It's conceivable that we could get two, three, four, five innings out of our starter pitching well and then roll it out."

The winner of the AL wild-card game will face the AL East champion Boston Red Sox (108-54) in the best-of-five AL Division Series beginning Friday.

Take 5: Biggest weaknesses for NL playoff teams

It took two Game 163s, but the National League playoff picture is finally settled.

The Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers claimed their division tiebreakers on Monday, winning the NL Central and West, respectively. The losers of those games -- the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies -- will face off in the wild-card game Tuesday, with the winner of that contest bound for Milwaukee for Games 1 and 2 of the Division Series.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, will host the NL East champion Atlanta Braves in the other Division Series.

Each NL postseason team finished with more than 90 wins, but that isn't to say they are flawless. Here are potential issues for each club that could prove problematic this October.

5. Atlanta Braves -- youth/inexperience

The Braves are in the postseason for the first time since 2013, which means many of their current players will be getting their first taste of playoff baseball. The only regulars in Atlanta's lineup who have postseason experience are the elder statesmen -- catcher Kurt Suzuki (34), first baseman Freddie Freeman (28) and right fielder Nick Markakis (34). Leadoff hitter Ronald Acuna Jr. is 20 years old, and the team's top source of power, Ozzie Albies, is 21. Anibal Sanchez is the only member of Atlanta's rotation with extensive postseason experience, though his last playoff start came in 2013. While the energy young players provide could be a strength for the Braves in a high-pressure environment, it could just as easily be their undoing against a loaded Dodgers team making its sixth straight postseason appearance.

4. Milwaukee Brewers -- momentum

The Brewers have a shutdown bullpen, potent offense and quality starting pitching. They enter the playoffs having won eight straight and 20 of 27 since the start of September. But now, having won Monday's tiebreaker against the Cubs, they'll travel back to Milwaukee and won't play again until Thursday. That kind of break can easily throw off a team's rhythm. Just as quickly as the Brewers won eight straight in April, they lost their next four in a row. Matching the momentum of whichever team travels to Milwaukee off the high of a wild-card game win will be key to the Brewers avoiding an upset.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers -- Kenley Jansen's health

The Dodgers are another team with few weaknesses, though one potential problem they may face extends beyond the game of baseball. Closer Kenley Jansen is expected to undergo heart surgery this offseason after spending time on the disabled list as the result of an irregular heartbeat that first surfaced this season at Colorado in August. So what if Los Angeles has to play the Rockies in the NL Championship Series? Jansen told USA Today he'll take the risk and make the trip, but him putting his life in danger in such a way has to be unsettling to those around him. Jansen has been the Dodgers' greatest weapon the last two postseasons, pitching more than one inning on multiple occasions with mostly positive results. How comfortable manager Dave Roberts will feel doing the same this time around -- especially if the team plays in Denver -- remains to be seen.

2. Chicago Cubs -- stale offense

Where has the excitement gone in Chicago? Just two years ago, the Cubs rode a young and exhilarating offense to their first World Series title since 1908, but the team has lacked that dynamic feel this season. As a club, the Cubs hit the fifth-fewest home runs (167) in the NL this year along with ranking third-from-last in stolen bases (66). Remove Javier Baez (34 homers, 21 steals) from the lineup, and no Cubs player topped eight in both categories. Manager Joe Maddon has a history of being creative with his clubs, but this Cubs team just seems to lack the offensive versatility that can give opponents fits in a playoff series. Headed to the wild-card game, Chicago is going to need a spark from someone to get another crack at Milwaukee.

1. Colorado Rockies -- bullpen

Yes, pitching is once again a problem for the Rockies. The team dedicated north of $100 million this offseason toward fortifying its bullpen, and in return it got a 4.62 ERA from its relievers -- third worst in the NL. New closer Wade Davis has a 4.13 ERA, and the two other pitchers signed over the winter who were supposed to be his setup men -- Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee -- have ERAs of 5.93 and 6.49, respectively. The Rockies are loaded on offense, and their starting pitching has shown improvement, but how they'll hold leads or keep close in a tight game will be an area of concern.

Rockies to start young gun Freeland vs. Cubs' Lester

The Colorado Rockies have to quickly forget about their 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West tiebreaker on Monday. They have work to do Tuesday night if they want to extend their season.

The Rockies (91-72) will travel to Chicago to play in the NL wild-card game against the Cubs (95-68), and will need a victory to advance to the NL Division Series. A loss will end a season that ended on a high note until the tiebreaker loss.

"Our guys will put it in the rearview for sure," Rockies manager Bud Black told reporters after the loss. "The resiliency of this group has been awesome all year."

The Rockies will start second-year left-hander Kyle Freeland (17-7, 2.85 ERA) on three days' rest for the first time in his career against left-handed veteran Jon Lester (18-6, 3.32 ERA), their second faceoff of 2018.

"I'm looking forward to the battle in Chicago," said Freeland, who finished the season with 11 consecutive quality starts but has no postseason experience. "I've done everything I could to get my arm feeling good from my last start, and it feels good right now. I'm ready to go, and I'm not too worried about being on short rest."

Freeland, 25, faced the Cubs once this season, allowing three runs on six hits in seven innings during a 3-2 loss on April 30 in a matchup with Lester, who allowed just two unearned runs in 5 2/3 innings but didn't earn a decision at Wrigley Field.

Freeland has gone 9-1 with a 2.49 ERA in 14 starts since the All-Star break en route to setting club records for single-season ERA (2.85) and home ERA (2.40) during the regular season, so the Rockies obviously believe he is the right choice for the job Tuesday night.

"He's been our best guy," outfielder Charlie Blackmon said. "It seems like every time he's out there, we're winning, we have a chance to win, or we do win. He's an amazing competitor, and I'm sure he'll rise to the occasion. If he just pitches like he normally pitches, we're going to be fine."

Lester was 4-1 with a 1.52 ERA in September. He has a 3.71 ERA at home compared to 2.87 on the road, although he pitched six shutout innings Thursday in his final home start of the regular season against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The 34-year-old veteran is 9-7 with a 2.55 ERA in 25 postseason appearances (21 starts).

Chicago manager Joe Maddon announced that Cole Hamels, another left-handed starter, will be available in the bullpen as the Cubs prepared to submit their 25-man roster by Tuesday morning.

Maddon wasn't sure about the availability of reliever Pedro Strop, who sustained a left hamstring strain on Sept. 13. Since the injury, Strop has thrown off a mound only twice since but has been keeping his arm in shape.

"We should have plenty of bullpen help for Tuesday," Maddon said.

Angels' Ohtani undergoes Tommy John surgery

Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Monday, the team announced.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said in a statement that Dr. Neal ElAttrache performed the surgery and "is pleased with what he saw and feels confident in the recovery process."

Ohtani, who throws right-handed, won't pitch again until the 2020 season. He will serve as the Angels' designated hitter next season.

Ohtani, 24, batted .285 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs in 104 games this year. He had 15 homers and 39 RBIs in 59 games after the All-Star break.

He was 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts as a pitcher.

Ohtani sustained a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in June and went nearly three months without pitching before starting against the Houston Astros on Sept. 2. He departed the outing after 2 1/3 innings, having given up two runs on two hits and two walks with two strikeouts.

After the brief outing, Ohtani underwent an MRI exam and new damage was found, leading to the surgery.

Eppler said Ohtani would travel back and forth between Southern California and Japan this offseason while rehabilitating.

Broadcaster Johnson to miss MLB playoffs with blood clots

Veteran broadcaster Ernie Johnson announced Monday that he is skipping the baseball playoffs due to blood clots in both legs.

In a video message posted to Twitter, Johnson said doctors found the clots during a routine physical and advised him not to fly while taking blood-thinners.

"When you are doing the playoffs, there's a lot of flights in a compressed time, and blood clots are nothing to be messed with," Johnson said. "As tough as it is for me to miss baseball's postseason, it's the thing for me to do."

Johnson, 62, was scheduled to call the Houston Astros-Cleveland Indians series on TBS. The three-time Sports Emmy Award winner will be replaced by Don Orsillo, the voice of the San Diego Padres.