Tomlin Takes on 20-Game Winner Happ in Pivotal ALCS Game 2
Bob Toth | On 15, Oct 2016
The underdog Indians claimed a big win on Friday night, riding strong starting pitching and a clutch two-run blast from shortstop Francisco Lindor as Cleveland defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 2-0 to take Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. The Indians will look to take a two game lead in the series when they host the Blue Jays in Game 2 from Progressive Field on Saturday afternoon.
Things are only bound to get more difficult for the Tribe. They shut down a dangerous Blue Jays lineup on Friday and will send an often home run happy pitcher to the mound against a team more than happy to hit home runs. The Jays employ six different regulars who toppled the 20-homer mark over the course of the season and the team is an unlikely candidate to be contained for long. The overlooked Indians offense did not do much in the series opener in a tough matchup with Marco Estrada, but Corey Kluber and company kept the Jays at bay and made the miniscule support by the Tribe bats stand up on a cool October night.
The Indians will need a win to avoid tilting home field advantage in the Blue Jays’ favor, with three games scheduled in Toronto on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
GAME TIMES and PITCHING PROBABLES
Friday, 10/14/16 – Cleveland 2, Toronto 0
Saturday, 10/15/16 (4:00 PM ET at CLE) – LHP J.A. Happ (20-4, 3.18 ERA) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (13-9, 4.40)
Monday, 10/17/16 (8:00 PM ET at TOR) – RHP Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.26) vs. RHP Marcus Stroman (9-10, 4.37)
Tuesday, 10/18/16 (Time TBD at TOR) – RHP Mike Clevinger (3-3, 5.26) vs. RHP Aaron Sanchez (15-2, 3.00)
Wednesday, 10/19/16* (Time TBD at TOR) – TBD
Friday, 10/21/16* (Time TBD at CLE) – TBD
Saturday, 10/22/16* (Time TBD at CLE) – TBD
TV (all games) – TBS; SNET; RDS; CNN en Espanol
Radio (all games) – Indians Radio Network; ESPN Radio; SN590 (Toronto)
TOMLIN TAMED TOUGH SOX LINEUP
For those concerned with how Tomlin might fare against the Blue Jays, taking a glance back at how he approached the Boston Red Sox on Monday might instill a little bit of faith that he can get through another start with minimal damage allowed. He threw five innings in Game 3 of the ALDS, giving up two runs on four hits and one walk while striking out four.
Tomlin’s issues on the mound in the second half were a frequent source of discussion as the Indians rotation began to hemorrhage starting pitchers in the final weeks of the season. Tomlin had started the season with a 9-2 mark in the first half with a 3.51 ERA, but began to scuffle in late July and fell apart in August, going 0-5 in six starts with an 11.48 ERA and 1.95 WHIP. After briefly leaving the rotation and making one appearance out of the bullpen, Tomlin was reinserted back into the starting mix because of a sheer lack of available healthy starters, but was reliable on the mound down the stretch, going 2-1 in his final five appearances of the season with a 1.69 ERA and 0.79 WHIP.
TOMLIN VS. TORONTO
Tomlin took on Toronto twice during the regular season, going 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA and 1.84 WHIP. He allowed seven runs on 16 total hits, walking three batters and allowing four costly home run balls. He did also strike out 13 Jays in those 10 1/3 innings.
Blue Jay hitters have combined to hit .277 against Tomlin in their careers. Melvin Upton Jr. leads the team with 14 plate appearances against him and has a team-high four hits off of him, including a homer and two RBI. Russell Martin, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and Justin Smoak have also homered off of him.
Darwin Barney is 3-for-4 in his career against Tomlin, while Devon Travis is 3-for-5. Bautista is 1-for-6 and Smoak is 1-for-8, with both of their career hits leaving the yard off of him. Ezequiel Carrera is 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.
HAPP A CY CANDIDATE
Few could have expected the impressive season of Happ on the mound, especially when looking at his career numbers coming into the year. He went 20-4 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in his first season back in Toronto after signing a three-year, $36 million deal in the offseason. His previous career best for wins in a season was 12 during the 2009 season, when he finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year race. That season was also the last time he had pitched in the postseason until this year.
He worked in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers, allowing a run on nine hits and one walk in five innings on the mound. He struck out five and earned his first career win in his ninth playoff appearance and just his second career start.
He was one of many Blue Jays pitchers who were worthy of All-Star nods this season, but despite strong first half numbers, he was the odd man out. He was 12-3 at the break with a 3.36 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 18 starts. He finished the year even better, going 8-1 with a 2.94 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in the second half. The Indians may benefit slightly from catching him in Cleveland – he was 9-2 on the road with a 3.43 ERA in 17 starts, as opposed to 11-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 15 home starts, but he held opposing hitters to a batting average 14 points lower while away from Rogers Centre.
HAPP VS. CLEVELAND
Happ faced the Indians one time this season, earning a win in a start in Toronto. He worked seven innings of one-run baseball, giving up five hits while striking out eleven. That win pushed his career mark to 3-1 against Cleveland in six games (five starts), after previously earning wins in 2012 and 2014. He was hit hard in two games against the Indians in 2015, allowing six runs on 14 hits in seven and one-third innings (7.36 ERA, 2.32 WHIP) while taking a loss in one of the contests. He lost his only career start at Progressive Field during the campaign last season, allowing four runs on six hits with two walks in two and one-third innings.
Happ has held members of the Indians lineup to a .214 average against him in their careers (not counting reliever Andrew Miller’s 0-for-3 against him with two strikeouts). Mike Napoli is one of the few with success against Happ; he is 6-for-19 (.316) with a double and a walk in 20 plate appearances. Carlos Santana is 4-for-10 off of him with a double. Jason Kipnis has defied the splits with three doubles in nine plate appearances against him.
No current Indians player has hit a triple or homer off of the soon-to-be 34-year-old lefty.
MORE ON MILLER
While Miller’s career numbers against Happ are of no consequence in this ALCS matchup, Miller’s numbers on the mound in the postseason are certainly worth noting.
With five outs on Friday night while pitching in his second career ALCS, Miller has now worked 14 scoreless innings over nine career playoff appearances. He has a win and four holds in postseason play, dating back to 2014 with Baltimore.
He has struck out 22 and walked three in his postseason career, including 12 of the strikeouts and two of the walks in five and two-thirds innings of three games for the Tribe this October.
ON THE INJURY FRONT
Toronto second baseman Travis left Friday’s game in the fifth inning after aggravating a right knee injury.
The Blue Jays operated a man light in Game 1, as pitcher Francisco Liriano was not yet eligible to rejoin the roster after being subject to Major League Baseball’s concussion protocol after being struck by a line drive during the ALDS.
Sunday will be an off day for both clubs as the two teams shift the series to the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
The ALCS will resume on Monday with Game 3’s 8:00 PM ET scheduled start time as the Blue Jays host the first of three games there, as needed. Toronto will start the right-hander Stroman in the contest, while Cleveland will attempt to send its right-hander Bauer to the mound.
Stroman was 9-10 for the Jays this season with a 4.10 ERA. The 25-year-old right-hander and former first round pick by Toronto in the 2012 draft was strong against the Indians in 2016 despite a pair of no-decisions. He allowed just two runs in 14 innings, giving up 12 hits and a pair of walks while striking out 15.
Bauer was pushed back from his original start date on Saturday after sustaining a lacerated right pinkie finger in an off-the-field accident that required stitches. He went 12-8 in the regular season with a 4.26 ERA. The 25-year-old and 2011 first rounder earned his first career win against the Blue Jays while throwing five innings of scoreless relief in the 19-inning marathon between the two clubs earlier this season. He posted a 1.38 ERA and 0.92 WHIP against Toronto in one start and one relief effort, allowing just two runs on seven hits with five walks and 16 strikeouts in 13 innings of work.
Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images