The Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays have announced their starting pitchers for the first four games of the ALCS.
The American League Championship Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians kicks off Friday night in Cleveland. Unlike the in the divisional round, both teams have had time to sort and shuffle their rotations to maximize their chances of winning. Both teams made minor changes to their division series rotations.
Game 1 will pit Marco Estrada of the Jays against Corey Kluber of the Indians. Both pitchers are coming off dominant ALDS starts. Estrada nearly threw a complete-game shutout before exiting after allowing only one earned run. Kluber did not allow a run in seven innings of work in his Game 2 start against the Boston Red Sox. Estrada started one game against the Indians this year, allowing three runs in five innings. Kluber has a longer track record against the Jays in his career, and is only 1-3 with a 5.34 ERA against them.
Game 2 matches J.A. Happ against Trevor Bauer. Happ won 20 games this season for the first time in his career, and had an excellent outing in Game 2 of the division series. Bauer had an up-and-down year, finishing with a 12-8 record and a 4.26 ERA. He lasted 4.2 innings against the Red Sox in Game 1 of the previous round, and was bailed out by his offense. The scales tip in Happ’s direction in this start.
Marcus Stroman gets the ball in Game 3 for Toronto, and has not started since the Wild Card Game. Nearly two weeks will have passed between starts for the diminutive right-hander. His response to such an extended break will be a question mark for the Blue Jays. Stroman did pitch well against the Baltimore Orioles, limiting their powerful offense to only two runs. The Duke University product has proven himself to be a big-game pitcher so far in his career. The Indians will counter Stroman with Josh Tomlin, a soft-tosser who pitches to contact. Tomlin kept the Red Sox off balance while throwing five frames in the ALDS clincher. With Stroman and Tomlin squaring off, Game 3 should feature very few strikeouts.
Aaron Sanchez was the Game 3 starter in the ALDS, but shifts back to Game 4 in the ALCS, allowing Stroman to start. The AL ERA champ allowed six runs in his last outing, but carried a no-hit bid late into his final regular-season start. Sanchez should benefit from the extra rest, as he is well past his career-high innings total. The Indians are tentatively starting Mike Clevinger in Game 4, but that may change depending on the outcome of the first three games of the series. If Cleveland finds themselves down 2-1 entering the fourth game, look for Corey Kluber to come back early.