Cleveland Indians at Toronto Blue Jays (-180, 8)
Indians lead series 3-1
The Toronto Blue Jays look to take the second step of what they hope is an historic comeback when they host the Cleveland Indians for Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday. Toronto staved off elimination Tuesday with a 5-1 victory and hopes to join the 2004 Boston Red Sox (ALCS) as the only teams in major-league history to overcome a 0-3 deficit and win a playoff series.
Josh Donaldson homered and Edwin Encarnacion delivered a two-run single as the Blue Jays became the first team to fare well against Corey Kluber this postseason, reaching Cleveland’s ace for two runs in five innings after the former Cy Young Award winner worked 13 1/3 scoreless frames over his first two starts. The Indians managed only two hits – both doubles – in six innings against Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez before three relievers tossed a perfect frame apiece. It was the first loss of the postseason for Cleveland, which swept Boston in the AL Division Series before taking the first three games of this matchup. The Indians put their hopes in rookie Ryan Merritt on Wednesday as they aim to secure their first World Series appearance since 1997.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, TBS, Sportsnet (Toronto)
WEATHER REPORT: It is going to be a beautiful day in Toronto today. Sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-60’s. This year’s wild card game against the Orioles was the first, and only, time that the Rogers Centre roof has been open for a playoff game. The ball carries better with the roof open, so keep your eye on our Twitter feed (@Covers) for updates on the roof open/closed status.
SERIES PRICE (odds via SportsInteraction.com):
PITCHING MATCHUP: Indians LH Ryan Merritt (2016: 1-0, 1.64 ERA) vs. Blue Jays RH Marco Estrada (1-1, 1.65)
Merritt will become the second pitcher in major-league history to start a playoff game after making just one regular-season start in his career. The 24-year-old Texan got the nod at Kansas City on Sept. 30 and recorded the victory after allowing just one run and three hits over five innings. Merritt began his tenure in the majors with three relief appearances over which he gave up one run and three hits in six frames.
Estrada is hoping to duplicate the effort from his start in Game 5 of last year’s ALCS, when he yielded one run over 7 2/3 innings against Kansas City to keep Toronto from being eliminated. The 33-year-old Mexican tossed his first major-league complete game at Cleveland in Game 1 of this series but took the loss after allowing two runs and six hits in eight frames. Estrada also helped the Blue Jays avoid elimination in Game 3 of the 2015 ALDS at Texas, giving up just one run over 6 1/3 innings in his first career postseason start.
* Indians are 9-1 in their last 10 overall.
* Blue Jays are 4-0 in their last 4 games vs. a left-handed starter.
* Blue Jays are 1-4 in Estrada’s last 5 home starts.
* Under is 6-0 in Indians’ last 6 playoff games.
* Under is 6-0 in Blue Jays’ last 6 League Championship games.
* Under is 9-1 in Estrada’s last 10 starts vs. American League Central.
* Under is 8-2 in the last 10 meetings in Toronto.
COVERS CONSENSUS: 70 percent of the Covers public is on the home favorite Toronto Blue Jays and Over is picking up 59 percent of the totals wagers.
Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers (+105, 7)
Dodgers lead series 2-1
Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias becomes the youngest pitcher to start a postseason game when he takes the mound against the visiting Chicago Cubs in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday. Urias, who reached the majors in late May, looks to help the Dodgers take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Urias will be 20 years, 68 days old at the start of Game 4, surpassing Kansas City’s Bret Saberhagen (20 years, 175 days in 1984) as the youngest postseason starter. “Julio, I think that we expect him to just go out there and compete, use his pitch mix and go after these guys,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said at a press conference. “Give us a chance to win a baseball game. It’s what Julio’s done all year long.” Catcher Yasmani Grandal hit a two-run homer and third baseman Justin Turner added a solo blast as the Dodgers recorded a 6-0 victory in Game 3 for their second straight shutout — holding Chicago to six hits over the 18 innings. “We’re not hitting the ball hard,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after Game 3. “They pitched well, obviously. I have no solid explanation. We just got to keep working at it. … We’re just not getting the results right now.”
TV: 8:08 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
WEATHER REPORT: Another perfect day for baseball (and life) is in the forecast for Los Angeles on Wednesday night. Sunny skies (shadows will be a problem for hitters once again) and temperatures will be in the upper-80’s for this crucial Game 4.
SERIES PRICE (odds via SportsInteraction.com):
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs RH John Lackey (0-0, 6.75 ERA) vs. Dodgers LH Julio Urias (1-0, 0.00)
Lackey makes his 25th postseason appearance (22nd start) and is 8-5 with a 3.22 ERA, but lasted only four innings – allowing three runs and seven hits – in a no-decision against San Francisco in the NL Division Series. The 37-year-old first pitched in the postseason in 2002 with the Angels and later pitched in the World Series for Boston in 2013. “I had a long break in between World Series, so you realize how special they are and how hard it is to get there and how meaningful those games are for sure,” Lackey said at a press conference. “They’re tough to get to, and they’re tough to win.”
Urias went 5-2 with a 3.39 ERA in 18 appearances (15 starts) in the regular season and said it is a much more stressful feeling to pitch in the postseason. “The pressure is always there. It’s something that you have to deal with,” Urias said at a press conference. “I felt the adrenaline when I was on the bench, so I’m thinking that it’s something that I’m also going to feel. I felt it in Washington, but then I knew that it was something that I could handle and something I could do.” Urias pitched against the Cubs twice this season – getting hammered for six runs (five earned) in five innings in his second major-league start and later giving up one run and six hits in six innings in 3-2 victory Aug. 27.
* Cubs are 1-4 in their last 5 road games vs. a left-handed starter.
* Cubs are 1-9 in their last 10 League Championship games.
* Cubs are 4-0 in Lackey’s last 4 starts.
* Dodgers are 6-1 in Urias’ last 7 home starts.
* Under is 4-1 in Dodgers’ last 5 League Championship home games.
* Under is 14-3 in the last 17 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Early Covers consensus action on this game is split 50/50 on the moneyline and totals wagers are almost perfectly split with 51 percent of the picks on the Under.
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