LEADING OFF: Fans back as Braves, Dodgers open NLCS in Texas
A look at what's happening around the majors today:
For the first time since spring training, which closed in mid-March because of the virus, fans are allowed to return to the ballpark. You are allowed to enter Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas when the Dodgers and Braves meet in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series.
There were approximately 11,500 tickets available, sold in groups of four, with each of these capsules at least six feet apart. That's roughly 28 percent of the 40,518 capacity in the Texas Rangers' new $ 1.2 billion home.
There are no fans for the ALCS between Houston and Tampa Bay at Petco Park in San Diego.
"I think it's a step back towards normal, where people have the right to be free and choose to go out and do what they want," said Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen. "It's no fun playing baseball without fans. ... We salute it, we look forward to it."
After winning the game for Houston in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Charlie Morton beat the Astros for Tampa Bay in Game 3 of last year's AL Division Series.
Morton faces his former team again as he takes the second game of the AL Championship Series at Petco Park 1-0 ahead.
"I'd rather not think about it, just stick around and explore and do my business on the hill," he said on Sunday. "And off the field, you can be friends with people."
Righty, 36, spent several seasons for Pittsburgh early in his career. He recalled later going up against pirate players Josh Harrison, Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen.
"It's weird," he said. "I don't think you could ever really get used to getting used to going up against people you're close to. So it's just one of those things that you only have to deal with now and then."
Morton hopes to be unlucky next year. If Tampa Bay turns down his $ 15 million option, he's not sure how much demand there will be for him in what is likely to be a tough market for free agents. He regrets not being able to take his 7 and 3 year old sons and 6 and 2 year old daughters to meet teammates at the clubhouse this year and wonders if the coronavirus will be sufficiently conquered for a more normal year 2021 can.
"On a selfish level, I didn't want this to be the last memory I had of the game, the way it had to do with testing, isolation and not really special moments in the clubhouse," he said. "It was sterilized somehow."
Lance McCullers Jr. is scheduled to start Game 2 for the Astros. Morton and McCullers have had a lot of success playing in the same game, albeit on the same side.
Morton won and McCullers saved himself when the Astros defeated the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS. Then in the World Series, McCuller's Game 7 started and Morton ended in victory.
Walker Bueher, annoying blister and everything, starts the prelude for the Dodgers when they play against Atlanta in the NL Championship Series in Arlington, Texas.
The right-handed has made two starts this postseason and was limited to eight innings because of the bubble. He has beaten 16 and is 0-0 with 3.38 ERA.
Lefty Max Fried (0-0, 3:27) goes for the Braves. The 26-year-old left was 7-0 with 2.25 ERA in the regular season. He threw seven innings against Cincinnati in the wildcard round and then fought in the Division Series against Miami.
California-born Braves catcher Travis d'Arnaud was with the Dodgers for less than a week, playing in a game for them in May 2019 after he was released from the Mets and before he joined the Rays. "I don't like to see him playing four holes against us for the next week but I'm really happy for him," said Roberts. ... Brian Snitker, Atlanta manager, has a keen interest in the ALCS matchup. His 31-year-old son Troy is a hit coach for the Astros. "It's really a nice thing to be going on in our family," said Dad.
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