The Game: Cleveland Indians @ Toronto Blue Jays, ALCS Game 3
The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Place: Rogers Centre, Toronto
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Trevor Bauer (Indians) vs. Marcus Stroman (Blue Jays)
The first run scored in this game will be only the sixth run scored in the whole series. It’s been that kind of thing. Both teams have gotten good pitching and the Indians have gotten some big hits while the Jays have not. The Blue Jays are, according to one person anyway, victims of “circumstances.” I wasn’t aware that Andrew Miller had changed his name to “Circumstances,” but here we are.
Going for the Indians is Trevor Bauer, who was pushed back a couple of days because of a drone injury. You may think that’s pretty embarrassing, but it’s nowhere near as embarrassing as his revelation yesterday that “The Phantom Menace” is his favorite Star Wars movie. Imagine liking that movie more than literally any of the other ones. I suppose how the stitches in his finger have healed will have a greater impact on his start — both Bauer and manager Terry Francona say he’ll be just fine — but one has to wonder whether Karma or The Force or something will play a hand in today’s outcome. If “recent past performance” is more significant, Bauer faced Toronto twice this season, once as a starter, once in relief, allowing two runs in 13 innings while striking out 16.
For Stroman it’ll be the second start of the postseason after allowing four hits and two runs over six innings in a no-decision against the Orioles in the wild-card game. Stroman pitched twice against Cleveland in 2016, allowing two earned runs in 14 innings while striking out 15.
Despite the good track records of each starter against the other team this season, it’s hard to escape the fact that a reliever looms larger than any other player on either club. Andrew Miller has played a huge role in each of the first two games, striking out five batters in an inning and two-thirds in Game 1 and striking out five in two innings in Game 2. They talk about relievers “shortening” games. Miller all but ends them. Even when he doesn’t technically finish them.
Miller is like the grim reaper right now. The saving grace of the Blue Jays is that, while you can’t cheat actual death, even the best relievers get got once in a while. That time had better come quickly for the Jays. If they go down 3-0 in this series tonight, their path to victory, to use a phrase of recent currency, will be all but foreclosed.