Toronto Hosts Tribe in an ALCS Rematch with a Much Different Look
Bob Toth | On 08, May 2017
After meeting in the American League Championship Series last October, this week’s meeting between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians should have been an exciting series to have circled on the calendar.
That is, until the Blue Jays (11-20) came out of the gate slow and have yet to pick it up five weeks into the season. Toronto has struggled in all facets of the game, scoring the second-fewest runs in the American League while allowing 23 more runs than it has scored. They may welcome a look outside of the AL East Division, as nearly two-thirds of the Blue Jays’ games this season have come against their rivals. They have yet to face a team from the AL Central and will do so for the first time at Rogers Centre, where they are just 4-8 on the season.
The Indians (17-13) found a way to win two games over the weekend while scoring a combined five runs by allowing the opposition to score just four. Their series win over the Royals (by far the lowest scoring club in the AL) came with some late inning heroics on Saturday night in a 3-1 win and a well-pitched ball game in a 1-0 one-hitter on Sunday afternoon. The Indians will be facing their first opponent from the AL East when they face the Jays and are 11-7 on the road this season.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
It figures to be an interesting reception for Bauer in Toronto. He made his last appearance on their mound in the ALCS and left a trail of blood in the process after attempting to pitch through a lacerated finger injury sustained in a drone incident. He left under a chorus of cheers from the Toronto faithful and has had some interesting social media exchanges with fans since. He has faced the Blue Jays four times in the regular season, with three of them coming in starting roles, and has a 6.27 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP in those outings. He is 1-1 at Rogers Centre in the regular season with a 7.11 ERA and a 1.90 WHIP in two games (one start).
Stroman left his last start early with tightness in his right armpit. He enters the game with an AL leading two complete games tossed. He made two starts against the Indians in the regular season last year, failing to earn a decision despite allowing just two runs in 14 innings of work (1.29 ERA) with a 1.00 WHIP. He also saw them once in the ALCS, giving up four runs on three hits with three walks and five strikeouts in five and one-third innings while being twice victimized by the long ball.
Tuesday, 5/9, 7:07 PM ET – RHP Carlos Carrasco (3-2, 2.18) vs. TBD
The 30-year-old Carrasco has a 2-1 record against the Blue Jays in his career, but you might not know it looking at his 6.26 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in his five career games against them. In 23 innings, he has allowed 16 runs on 25 hits with 10 walks, but he has struck out 30 of the 100 batters that he has faced. His numbers are skewed heavily by some poor outings over the early years of his career. Last season, he allowed just one run on three hits and two walks while striking out 14.
The Jays have yet to formally announce a starter for Tuesday’s contest. They used reliever Joe Biagini for four innings on Sunday to fill one of their two rotation holes after one starter landed on the disabled list and another was designated for assignment.
Salazar made his Major League debut against the Blue Jays in 2013 and has continued to pitch well against them over the years. He has allowed five runs over 17 innings (2.65 ERA) in three starts with 20 strikeouts in 17 innings of work on the way to a 2-1 record. Pitch count problems and an aggressive approach from the Royals ran him with two outs in the fifth in his last start, a 3-1 loss to Kansas City on Friday. He allowed two runs on eight hits with two walks and seven strikeouts in the defeat.
Liriano pitched six innings of one-run ball against the Indians in the regular season last year in his first start against them since 2012. It will be his 20th career appearance against Cleveland; he is 5-6 against the club with a 3.54 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP with 97 strikeouts over 84 innings. Current members of the Indians roster are hitting just .120 (3-for-25) against him with three singles and five walks. They have struck out 12 times in 31 total plate appearances.
TV (all games) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; SNET-1
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; SN590 (Toronto)
Cody Anderson (SP) – 60-day disabled list (4/2) – right elbow surgery
Shawn Armstrong (RP) – optioned to Triple-A Columbus (5/8)
Mike Clevinger (SP) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (5/7)
Joe Colon (RP) – optioned to Triple-A Columbus (5/7)
Yandy Diaz (UTL) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (5/8)
Austin Jackson (OF) – 10-day disabled list (5/2) – left great toe hyperextension
Corey Kluber (SP) – 10-day disabled list (5/3) – lower back strain
Patrick Cantwell (C) – traded to Texas Rangers (5/6) for cash considerations
Josh Donaldson (3B) – 10-day disabled list (4/14) – right calf soreness
J.A. Happ (SP) – 10-day disabled list (4/18) – left elbow inflammation
Mat Latos (SP) – outrighted to Triple-A Buffalo (5/8)
Casey Lawrence (RP) – designated for assignment (5/8)
Russell Martin (C) – 10-day disabled list (5/8) – nerve inflammation in left shoulder
Mike Ohlman (C) – contract purchased from Triple-A Buffalo (5/8)
Dalton Pompey (CF) – 60-day disabled list (3/30) – concussion
Aaron Sanchez (SP) – 10-day disabled list (5/1) – split nail
Bo Schultz (RP) – 60-day disabled list (3/30) – recovery from 3/29 Tommy John surgery
Glenn Sparkman (P) – 10-day disabled list (3/30) – fractured right thumb
Troy Tulowitzki (SS) – 10-day disabled list (4/23) – strained right hamstring
Cesar Valdez (RP) – claimed off of waivers from Oakland, optioned to Triple-A Buffalo (5/5)
The series between Toronto and Cleveland could not get much closer than it has been throughout the clubs’ respective histories. In 406 games, the Blue Jays have won 203 and the Indians have taken 201 (with two unfinished tied ball games from 1984 and 1986).
Both teams, as would be expected, hold the home field advantage in the series that dates back to 1977. The Blue Jays are 108-94 when hosting, while the Indians are 107-95 when Toronto comes to town.
Cleveland won the regular season series and the ensuing postseason matchup last season. The two teams split in Toronto, as the Indians won the first two before their franchise-best 14-game winning streak came to an end on July 2. The Tribe took the bookend games from the Jays when they came to town in August.
After spending parts of the last eight seasons in Toronto, Edwin Encarnacion will return to the city he once called home when the Tribe visits the Rogers Centre. He appeared in 999 games for the club from 2009 to 2016 and was named an All-Star on three separate occasions, including last season. In his career in Canada, Encarnacion hit .268 with a .355 on-base percentage and a .522 slugging mark with 202 doubles, 239 homers, and 679 RBI.
While Encarnacion’s season got off to a notably slow start in his new home, he has picked it up of late for the Indians. He returned to first base over the weekend for the first time since the middle of April. In six games in May, he has hit .286 with six hits (including a double and a homer) while drawing three walks and driving in a pair of runs. Reason for concern among Tribe fans should be tapered – he has been a notoriously slow starter throughout his big league career and has failed to hit higher than .250 in April in each of the last five seasons.
The Jays had quite a few big names hit free agency in the offseason, including outfielders Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders, catchers Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole, pitchers Joaquin Benoit, Brett Cecil, R.A. Dickey, Scott Feldman, and Gavin Floyd, and the biggest name of the lot, Encarnacion. Bautista would return on a contract in January, as did the ex-Indian Floyd, but he was released at the end of spring training.
After curiously eliminating themselves early in the Encarnacion bidding, they added Kendrys Morales in November to replace him in the lineup. Pitchers Leonel Campos and Dominic Leone were claimed off of waivers that month. They signed free agent Steve Pearce in early December, reliever (and former Indians setup man) Joe Smith in February, and added utility man Chris Coghlan on April 1.
BY THE NUMBERS
Morales is just 3-for-16 (.188) against Carrasco in his career, but two of the hits have been for extra bases (double, homer). He has struck out six times in 17 total plate appearances. He has had a similar line of production against Salazar, getting four singles and a pair of RBI but striking out six times in 21 plate appearances. He is the team leader in home runs on the season with six and is tops in RBI with 20.
Devon Travis has been all or a lot of nothing against Bauer. His one hit was a grand slam, the only one of his career on May 3, 2015. He is hitless in his other nine trips against him with one strikeout.
Bautista is just 1-for-8 in his career against Salazar with a double and an RBI. He leads the team with 42 strikeouts this season and is tied for the walk lead with 19 (equaling Martin’s total). He has just one more hit than walk on the season, leading him to a .174/.297/.261 slash at the plate.
Justin Smoak has struck out in all three career trips to the plate against Carrasco. He is second on the club with five homers and 15 RBI this season.
Kevin Pillar leads the club with a .313 batting average on the season. He is also tops on the club with 40 hits, ten doubles, 16 runs scored, and four stolen bases, but he has also been caught stealing four times.
Carlos Santana has had an excellent eye against Liriano. In six plate appearances, he has drawn four walks while striking out once.
The former Blue Jay Yan Gomes is hitting .385 in May with five hits, including two doubles. He has also drawn an uncharacteristic three walks.
I’M COMING HOME
After their ten-day road trip wraps up on Wednesday night, the Indians will take Thursday off before getting back to work on Friday as they begin a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins to start a six-game homestand. The Blue Jays will host the Seattle Mariners for four straight beginning Thursday night before a two-game series with the Atlanta Braves to finish up their nine-game home stretch.
Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images North America