LEADING OFF: Scherzer, Nats open MLB playoffs vs Brewers
A look at what’s happening around the majors today:
START ’EM UP
Max Scherzer throws the first pitch of this year’s playoffs when Washington takes on the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL wild-card game at Nationals Park (8:08 p.m. EDT).
Since a 2013 AL Division Series victory for Detroit, Scherzer has made seven postseason appearances, in a mix of starting and relieving roles, and his teams are 0-7. Scherzer himself is 0-4 in that stretch, lowering his career record in the postseason from 4-1 to 4-5.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner was 11-7 with a 2.92 ERA was slowed by back trouble this season. The Nats will have Stephen Strasburg (18-6, 3.32) ready in the bullpen.
Brandon Woodruff (11-3, 3.62) will start for the Brewers. He has pitched in only two games since returning from a strained left oblique that sidelined him for nearly two full months; he went two hitless innings each time.
The Nationals are 0-3 in winner-take-all postseason games, all at home. They’ve never advanced in four previous trips to the playoffs over the past eight years.
The Brewers made it to Game 7 of the NL Championship Series last year before falling to the Dodgers. Milwaukee surged to the playoffs this September despite losing NL MVP Christian Yelich to a broken kneecap.
Milwaukee outfielders Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain each missed time in the last week with ailments. Braun expects to play; there’s no decision yet on Cain.
The field of candidates to be the next manager of the Cubs is beginning to take shape. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein says former catcher David Ross is on the broad list being assembled by the front office. He also said he wants to talk to at least one member of the coaching staff about the job, and at least one other candidate is working for a team in the playoffs.
“We’re full speed ahead,” Epstein said.
The Cubs announced Sunday that manager Joe Maddon will not be back next year. His contract expired after they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
The 42-year-old Ross played on the 2016 Cubs team that won the World Series. He serves as a special assistant in the team’s baseball operations department, and also works for ESPN.
“I think it’s one of the best jobs in baseball,” Ross said on the network Sunday. “I’ve got a lot of close ties with those guys. I think the interest would be there. I think my heart is drawn to that dugout a little bit.”
The Angels need a new skipper, and old friend Joe Maddon might be a fit. The dismissal of Brad Ausmus on Monday immediately sparked speculation that Maddon, a former Angels bench coach who parted ways with the Cubs one day earlier, could return to the franchise where he spent three decades of his career. The 65-year-old Maddon was a catcher, minor league manager and major league assistant with the Halos, and he has a cordial relationship with owner Arte Moreno. Rumors began to swirl about Ausmus’ job security last week while Maddon’s future was being debated in Chicago. The Cubs’ only World Series-winning manager of the past century decided to leave the club by mutual agreement over the weekend.
WORK IT OUT
The Rays and A’s will loosen up at the Coliseum, a day before they meet in the AL wild-card game Wednesday (8:09 p.m. EDT). The winner takes on the Astros, beginning Friday at Houston.
Charlie Morton (16-6, 3.05 ERA) pitches for Tampa Bay. He was 1-0 in two starts vs. Oakland this year, allowing one earned run in 13 1/3 innings and striking out 15. The 35-year-old is in his first season with the Rays — in 2017 with the Astros, he was the winning pitcher as a starter in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series against the Yankees and he won Game 7 of the World Series in relief against the Dodgers.
The A’s have not yet announced a starter. They went with an opener — a strategy pioneered by the Rays — in the wild-card game at Yankee Stadium last year and it didn’t work out too well. Liam Hendriks gave up a first-inning homer to Aaron Judge and New York won 7-2.
The Athletics went 4-3 against the Rays this year, with all the games in June.