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Indians/Blue Jays

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 is making a case as this year’s team of destiny. Instead of taking a wait-and-see approach and rolling with rookie Ryan Merritt or the recently-gone-missing Mike Clevinger, the Tribe will attempt to finish off the sweep with Corey Kluber on short rest. Fighting for their playoff lives, the Jays will turn to Aaron Sanchez, the AL ERA leader for 2016.

Cleveland Indians (Corey Kluber) at Toronto Blue Jays (Aaron Sanchez), 4:00 PM ET

PECOTA odds of winning: 57% Blue Jays, 43% Indians

Projected Starting Lineups

Indians vs. Sanchez (R)

Blue Jays vs. Kluber (R)

Carlos Santana (S), DH

Jose Bautista (R), RF

Jason Kipnis (L), 2B

Josh Donaldson (R), 3B

Francisco Lindor (S), SS

Edwin Encarnacion (R), 1B

Mike Napoli (R), 1B

Troy Tulowitzki (R), SS

Jose Ramirez (S), 3B

Russell Martin (R), C

Lonnie Chisenhall (L), RF

Michael Saunders (L), DH

Coco Crisp (S), LF

Kevin Pillar (R), CF

Tyler Naquin (L), CF

Ezequiel Carrera (L), LF

Roberto Perez (R), C

Ryan Goins (L), 2B

Injuries/Availability

In the middle of last night’s game, Trevor Bauer’s finger started running like a faucet. Blood everywhere. As a result, his status for the rest of the playoffs is probably up in the air … just like a well-maintained drone.

YES. WE DID IT.

(Ahem.)

Bauer’s finger is still gross, and the Indians’ bullpen is wiped out. Any time you have to go to Dan Otero in the first inning, things are bad; five Cleveland relievers threw 20-plus pitches last night. But by throwing Kluber today, the Indians are hoping to give the ‘pen more of a rest than they might have gotten otherwise with Ryan Merritt on the mound. Mike Clevinger and Merritt should certainly be available in case of emergency, though I’d imagine one of the two being held back for Game 5–it sounds like Merritt–in case the Indians were to lose Game 4. And looking long term, I’d have to imagine Bauer is out for the rest of the ALCS, while Danny Salazar appears to be recovering and just might be available were the Indians to advance to the World Series.

Meanwhile, the Jays are still out Devon Travis, and Marcus Stroman certainly won’t take the hill tonight. But otherwise, the relievers they used didn’t throw very many pitches. While Roberto Osuna is kind of a question mark on back-to-back days, this team looks to be at full strength.

Outlook

At least the Jays are at home, looking to their best pitcher, and facing a Cleveland team whose biggest advantage–that devastating bullpen–is weak coming off Monday’s adventure. While no one’s quite sure how Kluber will throw on short rest, since he’s never done it in the majors before, he’s still the Indians’ best starter and the team will be looking to lean on him for both length and quality. Toronto still has some of the best offensive players in the game, so an outpouring of runs is always possible. They have as good of a chance as they ever have to win today’s game, but they’re a heavy, heavy underdog to make it all the way to the World Series.

Cubs/Dodgers

After a breather day, the NLCS kicks back in at Chavez Ravine. With the series tied at one, the teams will throw two very different but very effective pitchers in Game 3, with Jake Arrieta matching up against Rich Hill. Hold up. Can you honestly imagine those words coming out of someone’s mouth back in 2013? Baseball is so weird.

Chicago Cubs (Jake Arrieta) at Los Angeles Dodgers (Rich Hill), 8:00 PM ET

PECOTA odds of winning: 55% Dodgers, 45% Cubs

Projected Starting Lineups

Cubs vs. Hill (L)

Dodgers vs. Arrieta (R)

Dexter Fowler (S), CF

Chase Utley (L), 2B

Kris Bryant (R), 3B

Corey Seager (L), SS

Anthoy Rizzo (L), 1B

Justin Turner (R), 3B

Ben Zobrist (S), LF

Adrian Gonzalez (L), 1B

Jorge Soler (R), RF

Josh Reddick (L), RF

Addison Russell (R), SS

Joc Pederson (L), CF

Javier Baez (R), 2B

Yasmani Grandal (S), C

Willson Contreras (R), C

Andrew Toles (L), LF

Jake Arrieta (R), P

Rich Hill (L), P

Injuries/Availability

The day off gives both teams a chance to reset a little bit after Sunday’s Game 2. The Dodgers obviously needed it pretty badly, what with their predilection for running starters out on short rest. Clayton Kershaw and Kenta Maeda are out of contention for pitching slots, which means that Kershaw might pitch anyway.

Miguel Montero is probably still out of commission as a regular for the Cubs, but should be available off the pine as a grand-slam pinch-hitting option. Also, it is extraordinarily unlikely that the team’s other starters–Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, or John Lackey–will drop in. Otherwise, I’d expect the team is largely good to go.

Outlook

It’s a five-game series now–effectively, at least–with the Dodgers taking over home-field advantage. Both teams are deep offensively and will look to knock out the opposing starters early, but Arrieta and Hill are gamers. The Dodgers’ other lefty has struck out the planet in his two postseason starts, whiffing 13 of the 35 batters he’s faced, and the Cubs’ offense has had a tough time getting rolling this postseason. Arrieta has only had the one postseason start, but he looked very sharp in that one and he also belted a homer off a different elite southpaw starter. It’s likely that the Cubs will need more offense than that to take down the Dodgers, but both teams are still playing the long game, with at least three contests left to play.

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oldbopper
10/18
It is clear that Francona was fully prepared for this to happen. His choice of Otero in the first, a short man, instead of Clevinger who could go several innings, showed what his plan was and limiting all his short men to just a few batters was brilliant. His managing, since the arrival of Miller, has been suberb, and he has even created an entire new dialogue about how the game can be managed. It doesn't get any better than this.
drawbb
10/18
Miller wins series MVP unless Lindor has a two homer game or something.