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Blue Jays/Indians

After being dominated by Corey Kluber and the Indians' devastating duo of relievers in Game 1, Toronto looks to even the best-of-seven ALCS behind J.A. Happ. Cleveland counters with Josh Tomlin and looks to take a 2-0 lead in an ALCS for the first time in franchise history.

Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ) at Cleveland Indians (Josh Tomlin), 4:00 PM ET

PECOTA odds of winning: 53% Blue Jays, 47% Indians

Projected Starting Lineups

Blue Jays vs. Tomlin (R)

Indians vs. Happ (L)

Ezequiel Carrera (L) LF

Rajai Davis (R), CF

Josh Donaldson (R) 3B

Jason Kipnis (L), 2B

Edwin Encarnacion (R) 1B

Francisco Lindor (S), SS

Jose Bautista (R) RF

Mike Napoli (R), DH

Russell Martin (R) C

Carlos Santana (S), 1B

Troy Tulowitzki (R) SS

Jose Ramirez (S), 3B

Michael Saunders (L) DH

Brandon Guyer (R), LF

Kevin Pillar (R) CF

Lonnie Chisenhall (L), RF

Darwin Barney (R) 2B

Roberto Perez (R), C

Injuries/Availability

Devon Travis looked tentative on a pair of defensive plays last night and then left Game 1 in the fifth inning after aggravating his knee injury. He is scheduled for an MRI exam later today, but it looks likely that at the very least he will not be available tonight.

Trevor Bauer was initially slated to start this game, but sustained a cut to his right pinky while repairing a drone. Tomlin will draw the assignment instead. Andrew Miller threw 21 pitches last night while Cleveland’s closer, Cody Allen, tossed nine. In a series where Terry Francona will need to rely on both pitchers heavily, those pitch counts will be some of the biggest numbers to watch.

The Indians will likely use the same lineup they did in Game 2 of the ALDS against Red Sox left-hander David Price. This alignment adds Davis and Guyer to face the left-handed Happ and sends Tyler Naquin and Coco Crisp to the bench. Santana would move down from leadoff to fifth in the lineup.

The Blue Jays are expected to roll with the same lineup in Game 2 that they did in Game 1, with Darwin Barney replacing the injured Travis in the nine hole if Travis cannot answer the bell.

Outlook

A year-and-a-half later, some still refer to the (Pirates pitching coach Ray) Searage Miracle as a boon to Happ’s performance. But Happ’s DRA has remained fairly constant in the last three years, suggesting that while Happ can survive at the back end of a major league rotation he has not turned a corner. A more plausible explanation for Happ’s success this year is the Blue Jays' park-adjusted defensive efficiency (PADE), which was first in the AL and fourth overall in the majors.

Tomlin is not an overpowering pitcher, but he gets by with pinpoint control and the help of a terrific infield defense backing him up, anchored by Lindor. Tomlin relied more on his cutter this year than he had in the past, which helped him to keep the ball down in the zone and generate more grounders as a result. Tomlin altered this game plan in the ALDS, relying far more heavily on his curve ball. It will always be a fine line with Tomlin. His home run/fly ball rate remained dangerously high, while his strikeout rate dropped precipitously, but if Tomlin can survive five or six innings before handing the game to the bullpen the Tribe will have a fighting chance.

Despite Cleveland’s home field advantage, PECOTA likes the Blue Jays, pegging them as 53 percent favorites to even the series at a game apiece. If they can jump out to a big lead over Tomlin before Francona hits the activate button on the bullpen, it could be a long afternoon for the Tribe.

Cubs/Dodgers

After a dominating performance against the Giants in the NLDS, Jon Lester takes the hill for yet another series opener, this time against the NL West champion Dodgers. L.A. rides into the NLCS victorious but exhausted, and will turn to Kenta Maeda in the hopes that he can go at least five or six innings and give the bullpen a much-needed rest.

Los Angeles Dodgers (Kenta Maeda) at Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester), 8:00 PM ET

PECOTA odds of winning: 61% Cubs, 39% Dodgers

Projected Starting Lineups

Dodgers vs. Lester (L)

Cubs vs. Maeda (R)

Howie Kendrick (R) LF

Dexter Fowler (S) CF

Justin Turner (R) 3B

Kris Bryant (R) 3B

Corey Seager (L) SS

Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B

Yasiel Puig (R) RF

Ben Zobrist (S) LF

Adrian Gonzalez (L) 1B

Addison Russell (R) SS

Yasmani Grandal (S) C

Jason Heyward (L) RF

Charlie Culberson (R) 2B

Javier Baez (R) 2B

Joc Pederson (L) CF

David Ross (R) C

Kenta Maeda (R) P

Jon Lester (L) P

Injuries/Availability

Dave Roberts did everything he had to do to move the Dodgers into the next round, but the result is a tired and depleted pitching staff. In particular, Kenley Jansen tossed 51 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS and seemed gassed by the end. Roberts says Jansen is good to go in Game 1, but only for an inning.

Not only is Maeda starting on regular rest, he only tossed 63 pitches in Game 3 of the NLDS. Roberts can’t manage every playoff game as a must-win, especially in a best-of-seven, so he may have to push Maeda for 90-100 pitches, even if the results aren’t pretty. The Dodgers are adding more arms to their roster for the NLCS, but getting more quantity from every member of their postseason rotation is going to be a must.

Lester turned in one of the best performances of the 2016 postseason thus far, hurling eight shutout innings against the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. By modern standards, Lester is a workhorse, throwing 200 or more innings in eight of the last nine seasons. He has a 2.63 ERA lifetime in the postseason in 106 innings. Lester’s 6.23 ERA in the first month of his $150 million, six-year contract last year is long forgotten.

The Cubs might be without Miguel Montero (back) for the series, which would give them only two catchers. This offers some roster flexibility, but it makes it more likely that Ross gets the nod for both Lester's and Jake Arrieta’s starts. Javier Baez served as a super-utility player during the season, but his spectacular play in the NLDS makes it next-to-impossible to keep him out of the lineup.

Outlook

Game 1 looks like a mismatch on paper. Not only are the Cubs well rested while the Dodgers are coming off a grueling Game 5 NLDS victory, but Lester is pitching at his best while Maeda has carried his struggles from the end of the regular season into the postseason. Add to this the Dodgers’ well-documented struggles against lefties and it puts Chicago at a significant advantage. Anything is possible in a single game, but PECOTA sees it as highly likely that the Cubs will win an NLCS series opener for just the second time in their long history.

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lipitorkid
10/15
I buy lottery tickets and scratchers occasionally. I like the Dodgers' odds.
MikeGianella
10/15
That's the beauty of baseball. Anything can happen