Playoff Reset: Blue Jays vs. Indians ALCS Game 1


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.