The Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians will play in the American League Championship Series for the right to play the National League champion in the World Series. (Game one is 8pm tonight in Cleveland)
Here’s a look at five things to watch in the best-of-seven showdown:
Toronto’s Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez are as strong a foursome as you’ll find in the American League.
The Indians are anchored by ace Corey Kluber, who went 18-9 in the regular season and had a 3.14 earned-run average. There is a dropoff after that due to injuries to starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, but Kluber could pitch on short rest in the series if needed.
“I think we’re at the point in the year where anybody is going to do anything they can to help the team win,” Kluber said Thursday.
“If that means starting on short rest, pitching out of the bullpen on short rest, if it comes down to it and that’s what the team needs to get a win, then I’m all for it.”
Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez will likely make just one appearance per series through the post-season.
The Blue Jays are trying not to overwork the 24-year-old right-hander, who was a sparkling 15-2 in his first full season as a starter.
Sanchez, who led the American League with a 3.00 ERA, worked 5 2/3 innings and did not get a decision in his lone start in the ALDS. He’s scheduled to start Game 4 on Tuesday in Toronto.
Sanchez enters with 197 2/3 innings pitched on the year.
“I’m the type of player that’s going to listen to my body and there’s nothing that’s given me any red flags to be concerned,” Sanchez said. “I’ve bounced back good and having these days off has given me some extra time to get my body underneath me so to speak. I’m looking forward to this opportunity.”
HOW SWEEP IT IS
The Blue Jays and Indians enter the American League Championship Series brimming with confidence after impressive sweeps in the divisional series.
Toronto extended its winning streak to six games by dumping the Texas Rangers in three straight games. Cleveland also needed just three games to dispatch the Boston Red Sox.
The Indians had a 4-3 edge in the season series against the Blue Jays.
The best-of-seven ALCS will begin with two games in Cleveland before shifting to Toronto for two games.
A fifth game, if necessary, would also be played at Rogers Centre. The series would move back to Progressive Field for Games 6 and 7 if required.
Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna said he’s feeling strong heading into this showdown with the Indians.
He has seen a lot of work in recent weeks and has already worked five innings over three post-season appearances.
“Like they say, you don’t feel tired in these games,” Osuna said. “You just want to go out there and do your job and try to give the edge to your team.
Osuna had to leave the wild-card game victory over Baltimore last week when he felt a ‘stretch’ in his throwing shoulder.
He rested for a few days and came back with an impressive five-out save in Game 2 of the ALDS.
Many Blue Jays were sporting toques for the late afternoon batting practice Thursday at Progressive Field.
It was a chilly 13 C in Cleveland and a similar temperature is expected for Game 1 on Friday.
The forecast calls for sunny skies and a comfortable 23 C for Saturday’s Game 2.