The Cleveland Indians had a potential playoff preview earlier in the week when they hosted the Boston Red Sox for a makeup game. If that game had a bit of a postseason feel to it, this weekend’s series at Progressive Field with the American League East’s top team, the Toronto Blue Jays, should be equally entertaining.
The Indians (69-50) continued their reign of terror in the AL Central, taking two of three games from the Chicago White Sox during the week to improve to 33-17 in the division. Their 37-22 home record remains one of the top marks in the AL, trailing Baltimore, Texas, and Kansas City. Cleveland will need to improve upon a 12-17 record against the difficult AL East this season with the top team from that division in town.
The Blue Jays (69-52) have responded from an 11-14 record to start the season with four straight winning months. They have fared well on the road, winning 33 and losing 26, and have used the last several months to climb right back into the East race to take the top spot in the division over the last several weeks. Toronto has won its last three series and six of its last seven. They have a game and a half lead over both Baltimore and Boston heading into the weekend.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Friday, 8/19, 7:10 PM ET – LHP Francisco Liriano (0-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (9-5, 3.97)
It will be Liriano’s first start against the Indians since 2012 while in his brief 12-game stint with the Chicago White Sox. He is 0-3 in his last six appearances against Cleveland and has a 5-6 career record in 18 games (13 starts) with a 3.81 ERA and 1.62 WHIP. Friday will be the fourth game and third career start for Bauer against the Blue Jays. His lone relief appearance was a big one, as he went five innings of scoreless two-hit baseball in the 19-inning win earlier this season.
Saturday, 8/20, 7:10 PM ET – RHP Aaron Sanchez (12-2, 2.84) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (11-6, 4.14)
Sanchez is 1-0 in his career against Cleveland with a 2.70 ERA in two appearances (one start) last season. Control was an issue as he walked six of the 31 batters he faced. Tomlin took a no-decision earlier this year, despite a quality start. He went six innings, allowing seven hits and two walks, but he struck out eight while letting just one cross the plate. It was his first start against Toronto since 2011.
Sunday, 8/21, 1:10 PM ET – RHP Marcus Stroman (9-5, 4.63) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (13-8, 3.15)
Stroman was impressive earlier this season against Cleveland, limiting the Indians to one run allowed on five hits in six and two-thirds innings. It was just his second career appearance against the Tribe and his first start after a rough relief appearance. Kluber had one of his worst outings of the season at the Rogers Centre, when he allowed five runs on seven hits with four walks in just three and one-third innings in the loss.
TV (all games) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; SNET, TVA Sports (Sunday)
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; SN590
Shawn Armstrong (RP) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (August 19)
Michael Brantley (LF) – out for season (May 10) – recovery from right biceps surgery
Kyle Crockett (RP) – optioned to Triple-A Columbus (August 19)
Yan Gomes (C) – 15-day disabled list (July 17) – separated right shoulder
Tommy Hunter (RP) – 15-day disabled list (July 16) – non-displaced lower back fracture
Josh Tomlin (SP) – Family Medical Emergency List (August 17) – expected to return Saturday
Jose Bautista (RF) – 15-day disabled list (August 10) – left knee sprain
Josh Donaldson (3B) – day-to-day – jammed right thumb
Gavin Floyd (RP) – 60-day disabled list (June 26) – torn right lat muscle
Kevin Pillar (CF) – 15-day disabled list (August 7) – left thumb sprain
Richard Reina (P) – acquired from New York Mets for cash (August 19)
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
The last series between the Blue Jays and Indians was memorable as Cleveland extended its winning streak to a record 14 games with a 19-inning marathon win on July 1 in the second game of the four-game series. Toronto captured the final two games for the split, winning 9-6 and 17-1 in the final two games.
WATCH OUT FOR EDWING
Edwin Encarnacion’s big year comes right on the verge of a big free agent payday for the right-handed slugger. He is the AL leader in RBI with an even 100. He trails just Mark Trumbo in homers (34) and has added 27 doubles while slashing .269/.356/.556. He has hit .274 in the second half with a .353 OBP. His eleven homers since the All-Star break are tied for second-most in the AL.
In four games against the Indians earlier in the season, he hit .286 with two doubles and a homer while driving in six.
Troy Tulowitzki’s bat came to life against the Indians earlier this year, when he rapped seven hits off of Cleveland pitching in 18 plate appearances (.500 on-base percentage) and 15 at bats (.467 average) over three games. Two of the hits left the yard and he was tied for the club lead with six RBI in the series.
For the year, he is hitting .257 with eleven doubles, 21 homers, and 63 RBI. The latter two are third-best on the club.
Donaldson’s MVP defense has gone well, as the third baseman in his second year north of the border has put up a .289/.399/.556 slash line with 26 doubles, 28 homers, and 80 RBI, putting him near the top of the Blue Jays’ leaderboard in most statistics. His numbers have declined some in the second half, when he has hit .246 with six doubles, five homers, and 17 RBI.
He has hit .389 with a .542 OBP and .778 slugging mark in 24 plate appearances against the Tribe this season with seven hits (one double, two homers). He drove in four runs, picked off a base, and scored eight times.
SANTANA SLUGGED THE JAYS
Carlos Santana had a big series against Toronto in four games, slashing .368/.429/.789. He had two doubles and two homers, drove in a pair of runs, and scored four times.
He had five hits in eleven at bats against the White Sox to push his batting average back up to .245 for the season with a .340 OBP. He has hit safely in five of his last six games and has amassed 26 homers on the year, one short of matching his career high of 27 set in 2011 and equaled in 2014.
Jose Ramirez used a long hitting streak to catapult himself into position as one of the top batting average men in the league. He has hit .312 for the season and is hitting .353 since the break. He leads the team since the All-Star Game with 42 hits, ten doubles, 23 runs, and ten stolen bases.
Ramirez has hit .350 with a double and two RBI in the four games against the Blue Jays.
DAVIS PLAYED WELL AGAINST FORMER FRIENDS
Rajai Davis, the former Blue Jays outfielder, hit .316 in Toronto with two doubles, a triple, two homers, three RBI, and four runs scored. He has hit .266 for the season with 18 doubles and a career high eleven homers.
The American League’s stolen base leader has 33 on the season and has been caught just four times.
HIT THE ROAD
After this weekend’s big potential playoff preview, the Indians will fly to the west coast to begin a seven-game road trip. They will take on Oakland for three from Monday to Wednesday before a big four-game series with the AL West leading Texas Rangers next weekend.
With their six-game road trip complete, the Jays will return to Canada to host the Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins before hitting the road for nine games in the division.
Photo: Rich Schultz/Getty Images