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Astros to start Valdez, McCullers vs. Rays in ALCS

Houston Astros lefty Framber Valdez will start Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday, while Lance McCullers will start Game 2.

“I feel really proud and really thankful for the opportunity this year,” Valdez told reporters on Saturday. “It means a lot to me for the manager to show that much confidence in me. I’ve demonstrated they can have that confidence in me with the effort I put forth this season. I’m super thankful for the moment and super happy to be here.”

In two postseason appearances, the 26-year-old Valdez has given up two runs on seven hits in 12 innings with nine strikeouts and two walks. During the regular season, he was 5-3 with a 3.57 ERA and 76 strikeouts.

He has thrown at least seven innings in seven of his 13 outings this season, including the playoffs.

Blake Snell is starting Game 1 for the Rays in the best-of-seven series. Charlie Morton will start Game 2.

McCullers, who missed all of last season after having Tommy John surgery, is getting the nod for Game 2 over Zack Greinke and Jose Urquidy. He went 3-3 with a 3.93 ERA and 56 strikeouts this season.

“We need to make sure we prioritize flexibility and being reactive to the game decisions,” Astros general manager James Click told reporters Saturday. “I think we have done a very good job over the past six games of being aggressive about putting our best pitchers in the biggest spots and making sure we line up the leverage of the situation with the guys we want in those spots. If we continue to do that, I think we’ll have a lot of success.”

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