It’s Not Close To Being Done For The Toronto Blue Jays
For a Toronto Blue Jays team that had not seen the post-season since 1993 until 2015 and have now been treated to TWO ALCS’ in a row, there sure is a ton of anger and anxiousness among the Blue Jays fanbase. I can understand where people are coming from. The only step to better 2015 would be an appearance in the World Series. Being down 0-2 is the EXACT scenario the Blue Jays found themselves against a Kansas City Royals team that I’d argue might even be better than the 2016 Cleveland Indians. The Blue Jays were one single away from likely forcing a Game 7 last year. No need to press the panic button yet.
The Blue Jays have the next 3 games at the Rogers Centre, a venue that’s considered to be one of the toughest to play in. The pitching matchups break down as follows:
- Trevor Bauer vs. Marcus Stroman
- Mike Clevinger vs. Aaron Sanchez
- Corey Kluber vs. Marco Estrada (not announced for either team but expected).
Starting tonight (October 17th), the Blue Jays get 3 in a row at home. The Blue Jays did not play as well at home this year as they did in 2016, but they still found themselves 11 games above .500 at home (46-35). The raucous crowd is something Game 3 starter Marcus Stroman feeds off of. He uses the crowd to pump himself up and it showed during the Wild-Card game.
In the second half of the season, Stroman has posted an ERA almost 1.50 runs lower than his first half of the season. He has been a much better pitcher and leaving guys stranded, preventing the opposition from getting on-base and they’ve hit for a bit less power as well. Add the fact that Stroman has thrown 14.0 innings vs. Cleveland this season and has thrown up a 1.29 ERA and the Blue Jays could be well positioned with Stroman going.
Obviously the problem has been the bats inability to score runs. The hope is that returning home will wake up the offense and give them a boost. Perhaps a matchup with Trevor Bauer is what the offense needs to get going. Bauer has posted a 2nd half ERA of 5.36 and 12 homers surrendered. The triple slash against him in the second half has been .264/.342/.449 with a wOBA of .340. That’s not particularly good. He only lasted 4.2 innings with 6 hits and 3 earned runs. He did not walk a batter and struck out 6. Not a terrible line but he was susceptible to the home run ball.
One could easily argue that this series could be how it is now, tied 1-1, or Toronto up 2-0. Both teams have pitched extremely well but either offense hasn’t really gotten into gear. 2 timely hits from Cleveland and it’s a 2-0 Cleveland lead. A 2-0 win and a 2-1 win. With the next 3 games at hitter friendly Rogers Centre, the offenses could wake up but given the pitching matchups and the strength of the Blue Jays rotation, Toronto might be able to better hold Cleveland’s offense in check.
The key for the Blue Jays Monday is to get to Bauer early. Had the Blue Jays knocked Corey Kluber out by the 3rd by cashing in at least half of those RISP, Andrew Miller likely would have been used to ensure the Blue Jays lead didn’t grow any further. As we saw, the Blue Jays continued to shut down the Cleveland offense and using Andrew Miller to not allow a lead to grow is obviously much more in the Blue Jays favour than trying to mount a comeback against Miller and Cody Allen.
Tuesday’s game with Mike Clevinger is expected to be a bullpen game. I would imagine Clevinger goes once through the Toronto lineup, maybe a bit the 2nd time and will the be followed by Zach McAllister, who the Blue Jays hammered back in July. If the Blue Jays have a lead in Tuesday’s game, would Terry Francona go to Andrew Miller potentially a 2nd straight day with another game the day after? The 3 games in a row could be an advantage to Toronto because Francona will really need to pick his spots a bit more carefully when he uses Miller. I would expect Andrew Miller to get a batter in each game but multiple innings 3 games in a row? I’d be surprised at that but won’t rule it out.
If Toronto wants to get back in this series, the chance is tonight. It seemed as if Josh Donaldson was the only Blue Jay to get off the bus in Cleveland. The likes of Russell Martin and Jose Bautista need to pick it up. The Indians are having no issue pitching around Edwin Encarnacion knowing that Bautista isn’t hitting right now. If the Blue Jays want to come back in this series, Bautista getting hot is paramount. That will give Encarnacion more pitches to hit. The bottom of the order in Kevin Pillar and Darwin Barney have been largely ineffective. When the Blue Jays are going well, the bottom of the order produces and flips the order over for Ezequiel Carrera and Josh Donaldson.
If the Blue Jays win tonight, I do strongly think they will be able to tie the series up on Tuesday with the Mike Clevinger start. If the Blue Jays don’t take advantage of good starting pitching for a 3rd day in a row and the offense doesn’t wake up, with Corey Kluber looming on Wednesday, I wouldn’t have much faith in the series returning to Cleveland.
Marcus Stroman needs to continue what Marco Estrada and J.A Happ did on the weekend. Shut down the Indians offense. It’s on the offense to chase the starter early and prevent Andrew Miller from pitching with the lead. A Blue Jays win in Game 3 gets them right back in this series.