Playoff Reset: Blue Jays vs. Indians ALCS Game 1

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The Game: Toronto Blue Jays @ Cleveland Indians, ALCS Game 1
The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Place: Progressive Field, Cleveland
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Marco Estrada (Blue Jays) vs. Corey Kluber (Indians)

The Upshot:

Neither of these teams are supposed to even be here, right? The Red Sox and Rangers were favored in each of the Division Series, after all, yet they were swept home in three games a piece. That’ll show you what being favored in the postseason is worth. A five-game series defies prediction. A seven-game series is not much better in that regard. We’re all just watching.

Tonight we’ll be watching Indians ace Corey Kluber (18-9 3.14 ERA) and coming off of a three-hit, seven shutout inning performance against the Red Sox on Game 2. His early season was uneven but he put himself in Cy Young contention in the second half and seems to be hitting on all cylinders now. He’ll have to be against the Blue Jays, against whom he has struggled in his career. He faced them once this year and gave up five runs in less than four innings. The Jays won that game 17-1. In five career starts against the Blue Jays Kluber is 1-3 with a 5.34 ERA.

The Jays will start Marco Estrada (9-9, 3.48 ERA) who is coming off of a Game 1 in the Division Series against the Rangers having allowed one run on four hits in eight and a third. In one start against Cleveland this year Estrada pitched five innings, allowing three runs on four hits but picking up the win all the same.

As for the generalities of the series: I’ve seen a lot of casual mention of this being a battle of the pitching-first Indians against the bashing Blue Jays, but that’s . . . not really accurate. Toronto allowed the fewest runs per game in the American League this year: 4.11. That was better than the Indians 4.20. Meanwhile, the Indians scored 4.83 runs per game this year, second in the AL. The Jays were fifth at 4.69 runs per game. The Jays can pitch and pick it just as much as they can bash. The Indians can score runs. Beyond that, the Indians have the home field advantage and they played very well at home this year. The teams faced off a convenient seven times this year — four times in Toronto, three times in Cleveland — and the Indians won four of seven.

This series is as evenly-matched as it comes and it defies the stereotypes these two teams earned over the course of the past couple of seasons. Moreover, as we’ve seen in the past week, the usual matchup calculus won’t necessarily matter, as Terry Francona has gone completely nuts (in a good way!) with his bullpen management. Andrew Miller may pitch one or three innings, at basically any time in the game. The save, the setup man and the closer are amusing concepts to Francona this postseason. As such, each game promises to hold surprises. It wouldn’t shock me a bit if this thing goes seven games and if, along the way, three guys’ arms fall off.

Buckle up.

Report: Brandon Nimmo staying with Mets on 8-year, $162M deal

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – Center fielder Brandon Nimmo is staying with the free-spending New York Mets, agreeing to an eight-year, $162 million contract, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement is subject to a successful physical and no announcement had been made.

A quality leadoff hitter with an excellent eye and a .385 career on-base percentage, Nimmo became a free agent last month for the first time. He was a key performer as the Mets returned to the playoffs this year for the first time since 2016.

The left-handed hitter batted .274 with 16 homers and a team-high 102 runs, a career high. He also set career bests with 64 RBIs and 151 games played. His seven triples tied for most in the National League.

Bringing back Nimmo means New York is poised to return its entire everyday lineup intact from a team that tied for fifth in the majors in runs and won 101 regular-season games – second-most in franchise history.

But the Mets remain busy replenishing a pitching staff gutted by free agency, including Jacob deGrom‘s departure for Texas and Taijuan Walker‘s deal with Philadelphia that was pending a physical.

On the final day of baseball’s winter meetings Wednesday, the Mets completed an $86.7 million, two-year contract with former Houston ace Justin Verlander that includes a conditional $35 million player option for 2025. New York also retained All-Star closer Edwin Diaz last month with a $102 million, five-year contract, and the team has a $26 million, two-year agreement in place with veteran starter Jose Quintana, pending a physical.

Those moves add to a payroll that was the largest in the majors last season. Under owner Steve Cohen, who bought the Mets in November 2020, New York became baseball’s biggest spender this year for the first time since 1989. The Mets’ payroll was $273.9 million as of Aug. 31, with final figures that include bonuses yet to be compiled.

Nimmo was selected by New York with the No. 13 pick in the 2011 amateur draft. He declined a $19.65 million qualifying offer from the Mets last month.

The 29-year-old Wyoming native made his big league debut in 2016. He is a .269 career hitter with 63 homers, 213 RBIs and 23 triples in 608 games. He has an .827 career OPS and has improved his play in center, becoming a solid defender.

Nimmo’s new deal with the Mets was first reported by the New York Post.