The American League Championship Series begins, as game 1 has one familiar face from last season, the Toronto Blue Jays, coming to play the Cleveland Indians, both teams coming off sweeps in the divisional series.
The Blue Jays beat the Texas Rangers in three games with one special pitching performance by Marco Estrada and overall superior power hitting, which is to be expected. The Indians made a power hitting team look clueless with being opportunistic and patient on the mound, while enjoying some terrific bullpen performances, as the Andrew Miller trade seems to be really paying off so far.
In the regular season: The two teams met in two series during the regular season. In the first four-game meet in Toronto, the series was split 2-2. In Cleveland, later in the season, the Indians took two of three.
Starting pitchers: Marco Estrada will take the mound for the first time since game 1 in the series against the Texas Rangers. Estrada was close to perfect in the game, allowing only four hits and one run in 8.1 innings, striking out 6 and not walking anyone. He faced the Indians once during the regular season, a 9-6 win for Toronto. Estrada wasn’t too great, allowing 3 runs in 5 innings, leaving without a decision. The Blue Jays might need to worry about six different Indians players hitting home runs off Estrada with very few appearances against him.
Corey Kluber will start for the second time in the postseason, the first time coming in game 2 of the series against the Red Sox. He didn’t allow a single run, holding the Red Sox down to 3 hits in 7 innings, striking out 7 and walking 3. He faced the Blue Jays twice this season: Once in that 17-1 loss, not completing four innings before getting pulled off. He did a lot better in the second attempt, going 6.2 innings while allowing two runs in a 3-2 win. Russell Martin has a couple of home runs against him but a .200 batting average. Josh Donaldson has hit a homer vs Kluber, batting .375 facing him.
Hot bats: Josh Donaldson has been hitting everything, batting .500 through four games, although he has only 3 RBIs to show for it and 0 home runs, but does have 5 doubles. Edwin Encarnacion has hit 3 home runs so far in the postseason, posting a .938 slugging number. Troy Tulowitzki, batting .353, has 5 RBIs and so does Jose Bautista, but he’s batting just .200 so far.
The two most consistent hitters for the Indians have been Jose Ramirez (.500, 1.183 OPS) and Jason Kipnis (.364, one home run, 3 RBIs). Lonnie Chisenhall is their RBI “king” with 4, although 3 of them came from one home run. They haven’t really needed super hitting from anyone so far.