LEADING OFF: Rays hope for Meadows return in ALDS opener

National Sports

A look at what’s happening around the majors Monday:

MENDING MEADOWS

The Tampa Bay Rays may get All-Star outfielder Austin Meadows back in the lineup as they open a best-of-five series with the rival New York Yankees. Meadows has been out since Sept. 18 with a left oblique strain. Manager Kevin Cash said the 25-year-old is “in a pretty good spot” but wouldn’t say whether Meadows would be on the team’s ALDS roster.

“We want to make sure that he’s running good and that the timing is as good as possible for us to make a decision,” Cash said.

Meadows’ left-handed bat would be a welcome addition as Tampa Bay prepares to face right-handed ace Gerrit Cole in the opener. Cole allowed nine earned runs in 16 1/3 innings over three starts against the Rays this season, with Meadows out of the lineup for two of them.

Blake Snell will get the ball in Game 1 for the Rays. He’s 4-6 with a 4.31 ERA in 18 career starts against New York, struggling especially at Yankee Stadium.

ENEMY TERRITORY

The Astros are back at Dodger Stadium — site of their 2017 World Series clincher, since tainted by a sign-stealing scandal — but this time, they’re facing the rival A’s in an AL Division Series. When Houston played in Los Angeles earlier this season, bitter Dodgers fans heckled the team’s busses as they pulled into the stadium, and they figure to return this week, even as LA plays an NL Division Series in Texas.

“All the Dodgers fans that probably still hold that grudge are going to be out here voicing their opinion,” Astros outfielder Josh Reddick said. “It’s all about silencing the haters, that’s what all this year was about. The trash talk seems to be a little bit more running, and I love it.”

Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. will start Game 1 for the Astros against Oakland right-hander Chris Bassitt. McCullers had a 2.18 ERA in his final eight starts of the regular season. Bassitt was even better, going 3-0 in last final four starts with a 0.34 ERA and 25 strikeouts.

PADRES PROBABLES

Rookie manager Jayce Tingler said San Diego might not know until Tuesday morning who their starter will be for Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Padres want to give Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet, as well as the medical staff, every chance to see if they’re ready. Both right-handers were forced out of their final regular-season starts, Clevinger with an elbow impingement and Lamet with biceps tightness. He said both are day-to-day.

“I expect us to take it to the wire. … We’re trying to keep everything in play. We’re not ruling anything out,” Tingler said.

The Padres taxed their bullpen in beating St. Louis 2-1 in the wild-card series.

Craig Stammen and eight fellow relievers combined on a four-hitter in a 4-0 win in the decisive Game 3, the most used in a nine-inning shutout in any big league game since at least 1901.

San Diego became the first team in baseball history to use eight or more pitchers in three straight postseason games. It was the first time they won a postseason series since 1998.

NO DAYS OFF

Gerrit Cole on three days’ rest? Liam Hendriks in five straight games? Teams might be tested to push their best pitchers well beyond their normal limits this month after MLB eliminated days off during the Division and Championship Series. The league condensed the playoff schedule after expanding the field and moving the final rounds to neutral sites in response to the pandemic.

Reaching the World Series will test an entire pitching staff more than usual. Washington used five pitchers for 31 of 36 innings of its sweep of St. Louis in last year’s NL Championship, and three pitchers — Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin — for 89 2/3 innings among 153 in the postseason, or 59%.

“The five days in a row would be interesting, right? You would have to be really efficient the first four days for that to happen,” Yankees reliever Zack Britton said. “But if it’s a winner-take-all game, you’re going do it because that’s what you need to do to win.”

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