Toronto sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are both hitting the open market, putting the Blue Jays is a difficult spot.
As the season ended in Toronto last week, Blue Jays fans weren’t simply saying au revoir to the team’s hopes of hoisting the trophy in 2016, they were also possibly seeing team pillars Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista in Blue Jays uniforms for the last time.
Bautista and Encarnacion are, unfortunately for Toronto, hitting the free agent market at the same time, and doing so during an offseason in which the big-bat market is quite thin. The slugger supply does not meet the slugger demand, although it rarely does.
Ryan Merritt vs. Marco Estrada in Toronto and John Lackey vs. Julio Urias in Los Angeles.
Corey Kluber wasn't at his best on short rest Tuesday, but by going five relatively effective innings he did allow the Indians' bullpen to catch its collective breath a bit after Trevor Bauer's abbreviated, blood-filled Game 3 start. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are both rested and presumably able to combine for at least three innings today, and even Dan Otero and Bryan Shaw had light Game 4 workloads. All of which is good, important news for Cleveland, because Ryan Merritt is making just his second career big-league start after logging a grand total of 11 innings for the Indians. Any left-handed pitcher facing the Blue Jays' righty-packed lineup is in a very tough spot, but what Merritt is being asked to do is on a whole different level.
Corey Kluber vs. Aaron Sanchez in Toronto and Jake Arrieta vs. Rich Hill in Los Angeles.
Despite having to dip into the bullpen after just 21 pitches and two outs, the Indians rode their relievers to a gutty--perhaps “gory” is a better word--4-2 victory on Monday night. Trevor Bauer left the game in the first inning after his drone-related lacerated pinky turned the game into something out of a Saw movie, but the combined efforts of Dan Otero, Jeff Manship, Zach McAllister, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, and Andrew Miller held the vaunted Jays offense to just two runs. Seriously, at what point do we consider giving the ALCS MVP award to the entire Indians bullpen?
Cleveland refuses to lose, putting Toronto on the brink.
There’s not really a test case that can be done for “postseason magic” and for good reason: postseason magic doesn’t exist. Or, at least, it probably doesn’t exist. It 99.99 percent does not exist. There’s some strange world that it does exist in, according to Infinite Universe Theory, but that world is almost certainly not ours. And even if it were ours, even if that were at all possible, how would we prove it one way or the other? What, in the absence of empirical evidence, could we use to posit the existence or, better, non-existence of postseason magic?
After the Indians took the first two games of the series in Cleveland, the Blue Jays turn to Opening Day starter Marcus Stroman to avoid falling behind 3-0. The Indians, meanwhile, will start Trevor Bauer as they look to continue their loss-free postseason.
Cleveland used a familiar blueprint to take a 2-0 series lead over Toronto.
In 1993, Mark Wahlberg released The Marky Mark Workout: Form ... Focus ... Fitness on VHS. The tape, which has a runtime of 70 minutes and can be purchased for $12 on Amazon, features a bare-chested, semi-popular rapper executing French curls, tricep pushdowns, and stiff-legged deadlifts in track pants and a backward ballcap. Around the 10-minute mark, a "Triple-Threat Superset" is preceded by some tasteful black-and-white footage, during which Marky Mark gazes into the camera and murmurs: “Finally got to the fun part, as you can see I’m hanging by the pool with some fly honeys.”
Francisco Lindor provided all the run support Corey Kluber and the Indians' shutdown bullpen needed in Game 1.
After scoring 22 and 15 runs, respectively, in their three-game Division Series sweeps, the Indians and Blue Jays plated only two runs in the opening game of their Championship Series, both by Cleveland. The first ALCS game in Cleveland since 2007 was the shortest postseason game in the American League so far this year, lasting just 2:44, which means that the entire game could’ve fit comfortably within any six innings of Thursday night’s Dodgers-Nationals 4:32 slog.
Breaking down the strengths, weaknesses, injuries, and managers for the seven-game American League slugfest.
The Red Sox were the best team in the American League during the regular season and the Rangers had the best record. If the idea was to have a series that best encapsulated the 2016 season on the junior circuit, though, this is about the best we could have hoped for. Both the Blue Jays and the Indians bear the marks of a long season, and both have holes that would be notable and somewhat glaring even if they’d had perfect health. The two best teams left in the postseason, by a wide margin, are playing for the National League pennant. This has been an odd, sloppy slugfest of a season in the AL, and these are the perfect clubs to finish it off.
The team with the AL's best record was sunk by a great offensive team and a narrative they couldn't escape.
If there’s one annoying thing about being a baseball fan, in my experience, it’s dealing with the expectation of narratives. Baseball, especially over a long 162-game season, has such a granular quality that defining any team with a sentence or two glosses over so much as to be barely descriptive. You get the feeling, as a fan, that the way the media, other fans, heck even your own family understands your local team is so detached from reality as to be barely recognizable. You’re telling me the team I’ve lived and died with since April chokes in big spots, or doesn’t have the pitching they need for October, or needs more pop to really succeed in a short series? Hoo boy, we’re going to have to settle in for a long talk about how wrong you are!