LEADING OFF: Sale vs Verlander; Judge, Yanks' power vs Bauer

The Associated Press
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Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander throws during practice for baseball's American League Division Series, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Houston. Verlander is set to start Game 1 of the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

A look at what's happening around Major League Baseball on Thursday:

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MARQUEE MATCHUP

Red Sox lefty Chris Sale makes his first postseason appearance when he starts against Astros righty Justin Verlander in Game 1 of the AL Division Series at Minute Maid Park. Sale led the majors with 308 strikeouts while going 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA for Boston. Verlander excelled after being traded from Detroit to Houston, winning all five starts for his new team with a 1.06 ERA.

The aces spent several years together in the AL Central — Sale with the White Sox, Verlander with the Tigers — and started against each other five times. In those matchups dating to 2012, Verlander was 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA; Sale was 0-2 with a 2.78 ERA. Detroit won all five of those games.

POWER VS. BAUER

The Yankees led the majors in home runs this season, and Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner connected to lead New York over Minnesota in the AL wild-card game and into a matchup with the Indians in the ALDS.

Manager Terry Francona has opted to start Trevor Bauer in Game 1 at Cleveland, rather than dominant Corey Kluber. Francona said part of his decision is so he can use his best pitcher — Kluber — in a potential Game 5. Bauer shook off a slow start and went 17-9 with a 4.19 ERA in 31 starts this year. Since he began throwing a slider, he's 10-1 with 2.60 ERA in 14 games.

WASHINGTON WAITS

The Nationals still aren't saying who will start Game 1 of the NLDS vs. the visiting Cubs on Friday. Max Scherzer is recovering from a hamstring he hurt last weekend, and general manager Mike Rizzo said the team hasn't determined when the two-time Cy Young Award winner will face Chicago. Stephen Strasburg (15-4, 2.52 ERA) remains a top candidate to start the playoff opener for the Nats.

Kyle Hendricks will pitch Game 1 for the Cubs. The righty led the majors in ERA last year, missed time this season because of pain in the middle finger of his pitching hand, and had a 2.19 ERA in his final 13 starts after the All-Star break.