The Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians will meet in the American League Championship Series for the right to play in the World Series. The Indians have home-field advantage, meaning the series starts tonight at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
Before making it to the ALDS, Toronto had to play in the wild-card game, where they beat the Baltimore Orioles, 5–2. In their first playoff series, Toronto swept the Texas Rangers in three games. Cleveland also swept their division-round opponent, the Boston Red Sox. The Indians and Blue Jays met seven times this season, with Cleveland winning the season series 4–3. These two teams had some entertaining games this year. In July, Cleveland beat Toronto 2–1 in 19 innings. And in August, Cleveland downed the Blue Jays thanks to a walk-off inside-the-park home run.
Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto knows how to put runs on the scoreboard, as their explosive offense boasts some of the league's best power hitters. Edwin Encarnacion already has three homers this postseason, including the game-winner in the wild-card game. During the regular season, Encarnacion led the team in home runs (42), and RBI (127). Another key cog in the Blue Jays offense is third baseman Josh Donaldson. The 2015 AL MVP led the club in batting average (.284), on-base percentage (.404), and in hits (164). Along with these two sluggers, Toronto’s outfield of Kevin Pillar, Michael Saunders, and Jose Bautista gives them a leg up in the series. Pillar is a great defender, Saunders is an up-and-coming star, and Bautista is another power hitter who thrives in pressure situations. Toronto’s bullpen has become their other strong suit. Closer Roberto Osuna went 4-3 with a 2.68 ERA and 36 saves during the regular season. He hasn’t allowed a run yet during the postseason.
Despite their pitching staff being limited by injuries, Terry Francona’s club made easy work of the Red Sox. Like Toronto, Cleveland had one of the most potent offenses in MLB, in large part thanks to the emergence of third baseman Jose Ramirez. After leading the team in batting average (.312) during the regular season, he continued his stellar hitting in the ALCS, batting .500. Cleveland’s power comes from designated hitter Carlos Santana and first baseman Mike Napoli. They tied for the team lead in dingers during the regular season (34). Without injured starters Carlos Carrasco (hand) and Danny Salazar (forearm), Corey Kluber has stepped up. Kluber allowed zero runs and three hits in his Game 2 start against Boston. Cleveland will also continue to rely heavily on their bullpen with their rotation banged up.
Both of these teams have dynamic offenses and lockdown bullpens, which means these two squads couldn’t be more evenly matched. Even though their depleted rotation didn’t affect them in the ALDS, it might come back to haunt Cleveland in this longer series. Toronto will exploit this weakness and win in six games.
(Photo credit: Jason Miller/Getty Images)