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New York, Astros begin ALCS tonight

By Stephen Hawkins

AP Sports Writer

HOUSTON (AP) — Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann spent most of the previous three seasons as teammates with the New York Yankees, and while there got to see the birth of those baby Bronx Bombers they will now face in the AL Championship Series.

“It is a little crazy,” said McCann, the 33-year-old catcher who was traded by the Yankees to Houston last winter. “But when I was behind the scenes and got to see these young guys play, perform and the way (Aaron) Judge came out this year, it’s no surprise they’re in the position they’re in.”

Beltran and McCann are now two of the old guys for another team with plenty of talented youth — the Astros. Both veterans hope for another shot to finally win a World Series ring.

Game 1 of the best-of-7 ALCS is Friday night in Houston.

Much of the reason that New York was able to let go of McCann was another young slugger, 24-year-old catcher Gary Sanchez (33 homers this season, 53 in 177 career games). Judge, the 6-foot-7 rookie right fielder, hit an AL-best 52 homers this year.

Beltran, the 40-year-old designated hitter in his 20th big league season, admits that he was a bit surprised at how quickly the youngsters developed.

“It’s good to watch, it’s very refreshing to watch,” said Beltran, who was sent from New York to Texas at the trade deadline last summer and then returned to Houston in free agency.

Many have credited Beltran with having a big impact on Didi Gregorius, the shortstop who succeeded Derek Jeter and homered twice in the ALDS clincher, the Yankees’ 5-2 Game 5 victory Wednesday night after losing the first two games of that series to Cleveland.

“I’m happy for him, and I’m also happy for Judge and Gary Sanchez and the younger guys. They have been able to go out there and perform,” Beltran said. “I was the guy who provided that little bit of information for (Gregorius on adjustments). I don’t take credit for that. He’s the one who did it.”

Beltran has been in 58 career playoff games for five different teams. He got to the World Series once, in 2013 with the St. Louis Cardinals when they lost to the Boston Red Sox in six games. He was part of a seven-game NLCS loss with Houston in 2004 after being traded from Kansas City to the then-National League Astros during that season.

The only playoff game Beltran and McCann had with the Yankees was a loss to the Astros in the 2015 AL wild card game.

This is the sixth time McCann has gotten to the playoffs, the first time to a championship series. The catcher spent his first nine MLB seasons with the Braves before going to New York in free agency after the 2013 season.

McCann said facing the Yankees in his first ALCS doesn’t make the experience any more special than it already is.

“Both teams are filled with some great young talent, so it’s going to be an exciting series,” McCann said.

“It’s about two young teams that are both playing about as good as you can play.”

With a few older guys taking part in the fun.

___

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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