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Framber Valdez to start for Astros in Game 1 of World Series vs. Braves

After shutting down the Red Sox in Game 5 of the ALCS, Framber Valdez will get the ball for the Astros to start Game 1 of the World Series.
After shutting down the Red Sox in Game 5 of the ALCS, Framber Valdez will get the ball for the Astros to start Game 1 of the World Series.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Framber Valdez will start Tuesday night for the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves.

Manager Dusty Baker announced Sunday that Valdez would get the nod, but said the team has not decided on a starter for Wednesday’s Game 2.

The lefthander will oppose Charlie Morton, who pitched for Houston from 2017-18, getting the win in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series.

Valdez threw eight terrific innings in a 9-1 win in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series against the Red Sox. In Game 1, he permitted three runs in 2⅔ innings.

The Astros did not provide much new information on the health of ace Lance McCullers Jr., who was left off the ALCS roster because of a flexor pronator muscle strain in his right arm. McCullers still hasn’t started throwing, but general manager James Click would not rule out his return.

“We’re not taking anything off the table," Click said. “We’re going to see how he is. This is the World Series, so it’s obviously something that I know that Lance wants to be out there if he can. So we will talk to the doctors and him and the trainers, and we’ll figure it out from there."

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Houston will also wait to make a decision on center fielder Jake Meyers, who was on the ALCS roster but didn’t play while recovering from a shoulder injury. The rookie was injured in the final game of the AL Division Series, and Chas McCormick and José Siri filled against the Red Sox.

The Astros are also considering their options for how to get the big bat of Yordan Alvarez in the lineup when the series moves to Atlanta for Game 3 and they lose the designated hitter.

After missing last year’s postseason while recovering from double knee surgery, Alvarez batted an ALCS-record .522 (12 for 23) with one homer, three doubles, a triple and six RBIs, earning series MVP honors. He scored seven runs in the six games against the Red Sox and went 9 for his last 13, raising his postseason average to .441 with two homers and nine RBIs.

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Michael Brantley is Houston’s regular left fielder, but Alvarez appeared in 41 games at the position this season and that’s where he’s likely to play at Atlanta. Brantley would move to right field, shifting Kyle Tucker to center to keep his bat in the lineup.

“Kyle Tucker can play a very good center field, but at the same time, Chas McCormick has been unbelievable in center field and Jake Myers obviously is able to go get it, and I think José Siri’s one of best athletes out there,” Click said. “So it’s going to be a balance between offense and defense, and we’ll have to figure that out.”

Old NL West rivals reunite on big stage

Freddie Freeman swinging onto baseball’s biggest stage for the first time, Jose Altuve & Co. back for more. Luis Garcia, Valdez and a fresh set of Houston arms facing Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley and the eager, young Atlanta bats.

And the endless quest for Baker.

Braves-Astros, a lot to savor in this World Series — even a family faceoff. Atlanta manager Brian Snitker’s son, Troy, is a Houston hitting coach.

“It’s like the Snitkers are going to have a World Series trophy in their house here,” dad said Saturday night. “I don’t know who is going to own it, but we’re going to have one. So that’s a pretty cool thing, too.”

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A matchup six decades in the making, pairing former National League rivals who’ve played more than 700 times, including five postseason series.

Because of scheduling and COVID-19, the Astros and Braves haven’t seen each other since 2017.

The Astros opened as a 3-2 favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

The Astros are in the World Series for the third time in five years and got there minus ace Justin Verlander, who missed the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The Braves overcame a season-ending knee injury to dynamic star Ronald Acuña Jr. in July and surged after being stuck at 52-55 in early August. Boosted by NL Championship Series MVP Eddie Rosario, Atlanta is making its first appearance in the Fall Classic since 1999.

Yet while the roster and stadium have changed, the sights and sounds in Atlanta still remain. Throughout the NLCS, fans at Truist Park emphatically chopped and chanted during big moments for the Braves.

In an era of social reckoning, in which the Cleveland Indians changed their name to the Guardians and Washington’s NFL team got rid of a name considered racist, the scene in Atlanta is sure to draw increased attention.

On the field — and the bench — a lot of eyes will be on Baker.

He won the World Series as a player with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981 and has taken five teams to the playoffs as a manager but never won the crown.

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Baker took this job in 2020 in the wake of Houston’s cheating scandal — “there’s a few things I still hadn’t accomplished” — and at 72, with a lifetime of credentials, gets another chance.

“Last year I felt like a substitute teacher, really. I was an outsider,” Baker said. “But this year, they made me feel like I was one of them and they were definitely always one of me. That’s what it’s all about. Everybody talks teamwork, they talk about a team, but it’s a feeling that you get for each other.”

Over the years, these teams met a lot, starting when the 1962 expansion Houston Colt .45s took on the Milwaukee Braves. The .45s became the Astros in 1965 and from 1997-2005, the clubs played five times in the NL Division Series, with Atlanta winning three of the matchups. Houston moved from NL Central to the AL West in 2013.

Snitker certainly followed all of them. The 66-year-old Atlanta manager has spent four decades in the Braves’ organization as a player, coach and skipper.

He tuned in Friday night when the Astros and son Troy beat the Red Sox in the clinching Game 6 of the ALCS.

“That was neat. Proud of him. Got to FaceTime with him. Watched the celebration,” he said, hours before the Braves finished off the Dodgers in Game 6 of the NLCS.

“I told him the first time, it’s not this easy, you know, it’s really hard to get there, as we’re seeing. But it’s been a great experience for him and I’m happy for him. I said, I hope I can join you,” he said.

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Hours later, he and the Braves were on their way.

Cardinals to name bench coach Oliver Marmol as manager

The St. Louis Cardinals plan to announce Monday that bench coach Oliver Marmol will be promoted to replace fired manager Mike Shildt, according to a person familiar with the decision.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Sunday night because the team hadn’t revealed the hiring publicy.

The Cardinals dismissed Shildt, the former National League manager of the year, over organizational differences Oct. 14, a week after St. Louis lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a walkoff homer in the NL Wild Card Game. The Athletic first reported Sunday night that Marmol would be introduced the next morning.

The 35-year-old Marmol played in the Cardinals’ minor league system from 2007-10, then stayed with the organization in 2011 as the hitting coach for its rookie-level Gulf Coast League team. He coached and managed in the minors until 2017, when he joined the major league staff as first base coach.

He was promoted to bench coach in 2019 and remained in the role through this season, when the Cardinals rode a franchise-record 17-game winning streak to reach the postseason.

Cardinals president John Mozeliak said at the time the 53-year-old Shildt firing was “something that popped up recently,” but he refused to expand on what he called “philosophical differences” between Shildt, the coaching staff and the front office.

“All I can say is where we felt the team was going, we were struggling to get on the same page,” Mozeliak said. “With him having one year remaining on his contract, we could have gone into 2022 having that over him and we just decided that internally it would be best to separate now and take a fresh look as we head into a new season.”

Shildt’s record of 255-199 gave him a winning percentage better than such luminaries as Branch Rickey and Tony La Russa.