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McCann to play key role off bench, start G3

After starting 17 of 18 games in 2017 title run, veteran will mostly serve as backup to Maldonado
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Veteran catcher Brian McCann started 17 of 18 games during the Astros' run through the postseason last year, but he will serve primarily as the backup to Martin Maldonado this year. Maldonado figures to catch games started by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, and Astros manager AJ Hinch said McCann would start Game 3, paired with Dallas Keuchel.

"It's a different setup for him this year than last year," Hinch said. "I expect him to catch Game 3 with Dallas, potentially close out some games as a catcher for us. If I end up needing to run or hit for Martin, then B-Mac is more than capable of coming in and finishing the game."

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HOUSTON -- Veteran catcher Brian McCann started 17 of 18 games during the Astros' run through the postseason last year, but he will serve primarily as the backup to Martin Maldonado this year. Maldonado figures to catch games started by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, and Astros manager AJ Hinch said McCann would start Game 3, paired with Dallas Keuchel.

"It's a different setup for him this year than last year," Hinch said. "I expect him to catch Game 3 with Dallas, potentially close out some games as a catcher for us. If I end up needing to run or hit for Martin, then B-Mac is more than capable of coming in and finishing the game."

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:: ALDS schedule and results ::

McCann, a seven-time All-Star, has made 29 career postseason starts at catcher, and he hit .212 with seven homers and 23 RBIs this year. He missed all of July and August after undergoing right knee surgery. The Astros acquired Maldonado on July 26 to shore up the catching, and the former Gold Glove Award winner has a strong arm that should help neutralize Cleveland's running game in the American League Division Series.

Still, Hinch said McCann will play a valuable role in the playoffs.

"He provides a left-handed bat off the bench against their right-handed bullpen," he said. "I don't have a script for what I'm going to do or how I'm going to use him, but for someone who led us to the World Series championship last year, caught every inning, he's certainly prepared at a moment's notice to come in the game."

Sipp valuable against both sides
This year's resurgence of veteran left-hander Tony Sipp, a former Indian, has been a key storyline for the Astros. Sipp posted a career-best 1.86 ERA this year, stranded 33 of the 37 runners he inherited and held lefties to a .191 batting average.

Sipp, who wasn't on any of the Astros' playoff rosters last year, is the only lefty in Houston's bullpen in the ALDS, and he should play a huge role against an Indians team that features three left-handed hitters and three switch-hitters.

"I know [Indians manager Terry Francona] well enough, he's not just going to hand me a left-on-left matchup with Tony Sipp," Hinch said. "If he wants to pinch-hit, he's got [Brandon] Guyer or guys on the bench that can come off that can handle left-handed pitching. Chances are more in the favor he's going to have to face a righty more than a lefty. I doubt they hit for [Michael] Brantley, but that's about it. Tito's been willing to do just about anything."

Video: HOU@BOS: Sipp gets out of bases-loaded jam in the 8th

Hinch has no reservations about Sipp facing right-handers, either. In the regular season, Sipp faced lefties 76 times and right-handers 75, holding the latter to a .209 batting average.

"I don't know how the game's going to play out," Hinch said. "It's not going to be perfectly lined up for us. Tony will have to adjust with whoever he faces. The good news is that he's been very, very good, and the splits back that. His command's very good, and we feel like we know where to exploit these guys."

Scott throws first pitch
Mike Scott glanced at the photo of him being doused with champagne from 32 years ago. Asked what he remembers most about that moment, he answered, "I know it stung a little bit. But it was a good sting."

Chatting with reporters in front of that photo in the press box at Minute Maid Park on Friday, Scott said his most vivid memory from Sept. 25, 1986, was driving to the Astrodome and hoping -- for perhaps the first time ever -- for a Reds win.

"If they had lost, we would have clinched it without playing a game," Scott recalled. "Selfishly, we wanted them to win so we could win on the field and celebrate."

Celebrate they did. Scott's place in Houston sports history was permanently cemented that day, after he threw a no-hitter against the Giants, which clinched the National League West title.

Video: SF@HOU: Scott's no-hitter clinches the NL West

Scott's name comes up frequently, whether it's when a Houston pitcher is working on a no-hitter, or when the club is getting close to clinching a division title. Scott's no-no remains one of the top moments in Astros history, and when it's time to bring back the old favorites for a little pomp and circumstance during the postseason, his name is near the top of the list.

Scott threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 1 of the ALDS at Minute Maid Park on Friday. Prior to the pitch, he marveled about the strength of the Astros' rosters of late.

"I don't think I could make this team," he said. "It's fun to watch these guys. They're good now and they're going to be good for a long time."

Video: CLE@HOU Gm1: Mike Scott throws the 1st pitch on TBS

Scott says he still follows baseball, but more in October than during the regular season. Though he hasn't pitched for the Astros since 1991, he took personal pride in the team winning the World Series last year.

"I love coming out here," he said. "After I left here, they were in a stretch where they weren't doing very well. You want them to do better, and now it's hills and valleys, and they're on a hill now. They're going to be good for a long time. It's fun to come here and watch."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Houston Astros, Brian McCann, Tony Sipp