Few people expected to see the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians face off in the American League Championship Series, which begins on Friday in Cleveland at 8:08 PM ET.
The Toronto Blue Jays are back in the ALCS. After sweeping the Texas Rangers in the Division Series, the Jays travel to Cleveland for Friday's series opener at The Jake, starting at 8 PM ET on Sportsnet. Cleveland bounced the Boston Red Sox in three straight games to advance to the Championship Series.
Friday's projected starters have yet to be named, but Marcus Stroman (3.71 FIP) was ready to take the mound in Game 4 of the ALDS if necessary. Stroman was the starting pitcher in Toronto's 5-2 Wild Card win over the Baltimore Orioles (+142 away) on October 4, allowing both Baltimore runs in six strong innings of four-hit ball.
On the surface, the Tribe have even more pitching options than Toronto. They avoided the Wild Card, taking the AL Central crown by eight games at 94-67 (+8.92 betting units), and their Division Series with Boston featured an extra day of rest, thanks to Sunday's rain-out. However, Cleveland was prepared to stick with a three-man rotation against the Red Sox, while Toronto (89-73, –9.19 units during the regular season) is rolling with four pitchers. If the rotation stays consistent, Trevor Bauer (3.99 FIP) will get the start for Cleveland.
The Blue Jays have won all four of their playoff games so far, defeating the Baltimore Orioles in the wild card game and then sweeping the Texas Rangers in the Division Series. After averaging just 3.7 runs per game from September to the end of the regular season, their offense has come to life in the playoffs. Their 22 runs scored versus Texas were the fourth-most by a team in a sweep. They produced eight home runs from seven different players, which tied a divisional series record.
As for the Indians, they were equally impressive in their sweep of the Boston Red Sox, but for different reasons. Their pitching stood out despite the absence of injured starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. They also held the most productive offense in the American League to just seven runs in three games.
The Jays and Indians teams met seven times in the regular season, and the Indians won four of the seven games.