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Series tied 0-0
Neither the Toronto Blue Jays nor Cleveland Indians have been to the World Series this century and the two squads begin pursuit of ending that drought when the American League Championship Series opens in Cleveland on Friday. The Blue Jays haven’t been to the World Series since winning the second of back-to-back crowns in 1993 while Cleveland’s last visit was a losing effort in 1997.
Toronto rolled to a sweep of Texas in the AL Division Series while Cleveland was similarly strong by winning three straight games against Boston. While it was clear most of the second half of the season that the Indians were going to be involved in the postseason, the Blue Jays had to overcome a late-season funk and then had to defeat Baltimore in the wild-card game before shredding the Rangers. “We just kept plugging along. No big win streaks but no major dips either in the other direction,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said at Thursday’s press conference. “In September our bats went silent is basically what happened. We have that kind of team, we have a free-swinging team that hits for a lot of power, so that’s not abnormal. But they hung in there, we won some close games, and the pitching was really good.” The Indians’ starting rotation has been dented by injuries to Carlos Carrasco (fractured pitching hand) and Danny Salazar (elbow) so a strong bullpen led by closer Cody Allen and set-up men Andrew Miller and Bryan Shaw will be heavily relied upon in this series.
TV: 8:08 p.m. ET, TBS
WEATHER REPORT: Clear, cool conditions (low 50’s) are expected at Progressive Field in Cleveland for Friday night. There is a 2 percent change of rain with humidity levels hovering at around 70 percent.
HOT FAN BATTLE:
PITCHING MATCHUP: Blue Jays RH Marco Estrada (1-0, 1.08 ERA) vs. Indians RH Corey Kluber (1-0, 0.00)
Estrada was superb in Game 1 of the ALDS against Texas when he gave up one run and four hits in 8 1/3 innings. The 33-year-old, who has a 3.75 ERA in two career no-decisions against Cleveland, was a playoff standout last season when he went 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA in three outings. “Obviously it’s the playoffs and I understand it’s a big deal, but I treat every game just like the one before,” Estrada said at Thursday’s press conference. “I don’t put extra pressure on myself. And it’s something I’ve been saying since last year, why think about it any other way than just another normal start?”
The 30-year-old Kluber displayed that a late-September quadriceps injury was a non-issue by tossing seven innings of three-hit shutout ball against Boston in Game 2 of the ALDS. “I didn’t feel like it was a problem, I felt like I was in the good spot,” Kluber said at Thursday’s press conference. “Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, having a chance for the rest of my body to recover and stuff.” Kluber, who is 1-3 with a 5.34 ERA in five career starts against Blue Jays, went 18-9 in regular season to match his career-best win total from 2014 when he won the AL Cy Young Award.
* Blue Jays are 6-0 in their last 6 overall.
* Indians are 6-0 in their last 6 overall.
* Indians are 9-1 in Kluber’s last 10 starts following a Quality Start in his last appearance.
* Under is 12-3-1 in Blue Jays’ last 16 games vs. a right-handed starter.
* Over is 8-2 in Indians’ last 10 games vs. a starter with a WHIP less than 1.15.
* Under is 7-3 in the last 10 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The Covers public is leaning heavily toward Corey Kluber and the home favorite Cleveland Indians at 56 percent. In totals action, Over 7.5 is seeing 66 percent of the wagers.