Jason Miller/Getty Images
Having had a few days to rest and recharge, the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians will get back on the diamond Friday in Game 1 of the 2016 American League Championship Series.
The Blue Jays and Indians both swept their American League Division Series opponents. Toronto knocked out the Texas Rangers, while Cleveland sent the heavily favored Boston Red Sox packing.
The Indians owned a slim 4-3 edge over the Blue Jays during the regular season. Should Cleveland repeat that, the team will be headed to the Fall Classic for the first time since 1997.
When: Friday, Oct. 14, at 8 p.m. ET
TV Info: TBS
Live Stream: MLB.tv
Odds (relayed by Odds Shark): Toronto 27-20; Cleveland 20-29
Game 1 Preview
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
It’s a good thing the Indians only needed three games to eliminate the Red Sox because it means Corey Kluber will have had plenty of rest before he takes the mound Friday night.
The pitching staff has gone from Cleveland’s greatest asset to a major question mark over the past month. Carlos Carrasco is out for the rest of the year, while Danny Salazar will be unavailable for the ALCS.
Starting Kluber makes all of those problems go away—at least temporarily. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he was excellent in the ALDS, pitching seven scoreless innings in the Game 2 win over Boston.
Marco Estrada will be opposing Kluber. The 33-year-old also pitched well in the ALDS, nearly going the distance in Game 2 before exiting after 8.1 innings. While Estrada was generally pretty solid this year—reaching his first All-Star Game—he’s not quite the dominant pitcher Kluber is.
Here’s a look at their numbers, courtesy of FanGraphs:
The Blue Jays have the firepower to potentially knock Kluber out of the game early. Toronto was ninth in runs scored (759) after finishing first (891) in 2015, but the team showed its strength against the Rangers, averaging a little over seven runs per game in the ALDS.
Edwin Encarnacion has been a one-man wrecking crew, hitting three homers and driving in seven runs between the ALDS and wild-card game.
Toronto manager John Gibbons discussed what a luxury the middle of his team’s order provides:
Facing Kluber is only one challenge for the Blue Jays in Game 1. Toronto will also have to navigate through Cleveland’s bullpen, anchored by Andrew Miller.
The Indians paid a steep price to acquire the left-hander, giving up highly regarded minor leaguers Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield. So far, Miller has more than justified the deal.
He allowed five earned runs in 29 innings for the Indians during the regular season, and he has thrown four scoreless innings in the postseason.
Most importantly, Indians manager Terry Francona has shown a willingness to use Miller whenever necessary rather than saving him for the eighth or ninth innings. Cleveland pitching coach Mickey Callaway is all for throwing Miller out in the fifth or sixth innings if that’s what the circumstances demand, according to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian:
Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway, on how and when Francona utilizes Andrew Miller. Interesting comments in wake of The Britton Game: pic.twitter.com/X0fMWC2PBc
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) October 8, 2016
Francona won’t want to wear Miller down this early into the series, but considering he’s had a few days off, he’ll probably be good to go two innings if need be Friday night, which isn’t good news for the Blue Jays.
Over the course of a seven-game series, the Indians’ rotation is a big problem. Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger are scheduled to pitch Games 3 and 4, which isn’t a reassuring sight with as potent as the Blue Jays lineup can be.
Playing at home and with their ace getting the nod, the Indians should be able to open up the ALCS in winning fashion.