Two teams looking to snap long World Series droughts will meet in this year's American League Championship Series starting later this week.
Both the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays secured spots in the ALCS thanks to their sweeps in the ALDS. The Indians swept the Boston Red Sox while the Blue Jays thoroughly manhandled the Texas Rangers. Cleveland is in the ALCS for the first time since 2007. Toronto was here just last season.
Here is the schedule and broadcast information for this year's best-of-seven ALCS. All start times are ET.
|Game 1|| Fri., Oct. 14 || 8 p.m. || Progressive Field ||Marco Estrada vs. Corey Kluber||TBS||TBS, MLB.tv|
| Game 2 || Sat., Oct. 15 ||4 p.m.|| Progressive Field ||J.A. Happ vs. Josh Tomlin||TBS|
| Game 3 || Mon., Oct. 17 ||8 p.m.|| Rogers Centre ||Trevor Bauer vs. Marcus Stroman||TBS|
| Game 4 || Tues., Oct. 18 ||4 p.m.|| Rogers Centre ||Mike Clevinger vs. Aaron Sanchez||TBS|
| Game 5* || Weds., Oct. 19 ||4 p.m.|| Rogers Centre ||TBA||TBS|
| Game 6* || Fri., Oct. 21 ||8 p.m.|| Progressive Field ||TBA||TBS|
| Game 7* || Sat., Oct. 22 ||TBA|| Progressive Field ||TBA||TBS|
* if necessary
The Indians and Blue Jays have no postseason history at all. This is their first ever meeting in the playoffs. Here are some more things to know about this series.
The Indians have homefield advantage
This one is easy so let's get it out of the way first. The Indians have homefield advantage in the ALCS because they had the better regular season record. They went 94-67 in 2016 while the Blue Jays went 89-73. See? Simple. Here is each team's home/road split:
Indians at home: 53-28 (.654), +105 run differential
Indians on the road: 41-39 (.513), -4 run differential
Blue Jays at home: 46-35 (.568), +38 run differential
Blue Jays on the road: 43-38 (.531), +55 run differential
Only the Cubs (57) had more wins at home than the Indians during the regular season. The Blue Jays were a big more balanced this season, with success both at home and on the road. The Indians did most of their damage in Cleveland, so I'm sure they appreciate having homefield advantage in the ALCS.
The Indians won the season series
As non-division rivals, the Indians and Blue Jays played only seven head-to-head games in 2016. They played four games in Toronto then three in Cleveland. Here are the results.
It's worth noting that July 2 game ended the Indians' franchise record 14-game winning streak. Overall, the Indians took four of seven from the Blue Jays during the regular season even though they were outscored 38-24. That's a result of that July 3 blowout. Head-to-head history is nice to look at, though I'm not sure it has much predictive value, if any.
There's MLB/NBA postseason crossover
The Indians and Blue Jays have never met in the postseason, but the cities of Cleveland and Toronto sure have. Earlier this year the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors met in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Cavs won that series 4-2 en route to winning their first ever NBA Championship. The Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, you know. They had two home games too. And the unanimous MVP on their roster. Wild.
Anyway, this is the seventh time two cities have met during the NBA and MLB postseasons in the same calendar year.
Indians/Blue Jays in October after Cavaliers/Raptors in May. 7th time that cities faced each other in NBA & MLB playoffs in the same year. pic.twitter.com/2tvPRSvQdC— James Smyth (@JamesSmyth621) October 11, 2016
Cleveland won both series during the 2007 postseason. Now the Indians will try to match the Cavaliers in 2016.
These were the two best run prevention teams in the AL
When it came to stopping runs from crossing the plate, the Cubs were in a league of their own this season. They allowed only 3.43 runs per game in 2016, by far the best in baseball. The Nationals were a distant second at 3.78 runs per game.
The Blue Jays and Indians were the two best run prevention teams in the AL during the regular season. Toronto allowed 4.11 runs per game and the Tribe weren't too far behind at 4.20 runs per game. These two teams were the league's best at preventing runs, and that stems from a combination of quality pitching and quality defense. You need to be good at both to stop runs from scoring.
Key injured players may return this series
Both teams are missing important players at the moment. The Indians are without Carlos Carrasco (hand) and Michael Brantley (shoulder), who are both done for the season, so they're in worse shape than Toronto. The Blue Jays are without Joaquin Benoit (calf). That's really it.
The two clubs do have several other players who are essentially day-to-day, and all three could return this series. For the Indians, that means Danny Salazar (forearm), who the team hopes will be available out of the bullpen in the ALCS. There's not enough time to stretch him out as a starter, so the bullpen is the next best thing.
Liriano's situation is a bit more complicated. He was hit in the head by a batted ball during the ALDS, and the Blue Jays replaced him on their roster. By rule, he must be cleared by MLB and wait a minimum of seven days before being eligible to return.
Francisco Liriano says he feels much better, now symptom-free. Says he'll be ready for activation Saturday #BlueJays— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) October 11, 2016
Game 2 will be played Saturday, so it's possible Liriano will only miss one game this series. Salazar, Travis, and Liriano all returning to active duty will make the ALCS that much more competitive. Too bad Carrasco, Brantley, and Benoit are out long-term. It would be great to see these teams at full strength.
The Blue Jays are hitting the long ball again
A year ago the Blue Jays had not just the best offense in baseball, it was the highest scoring offense by any team since the 2009 Yankees. They weren't quite as dominant offensively this year, though they were still comfortably above-average.
You wouldn't have known it by watching them in September though. The Blue Jays averaged only 3.66 runs per game in the final month of the season, including 2.67 runs per game in their final six regular season games. Then, in the ALDS, Toronto broke out for 22 runs in three games, including eight home runs.
The Blue Jays are a home run hitting team. That's what they do. They rely on Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista & Co. to hit the ball out of the park. Those guys didn't do that much during the regular season. Now they're back to mashing the ball and going deep. The September funk is over.
Expect Francona to continue to be aggressive with his bullpen
Indians manager Terry Francona had a very clear plan in the ALDS: Hope his team scratches out a lead, then turn the game over to his bullpen for as many outs as necessary. That's why ace setup man Andrew Miller entered Game 1 with two outs in the fifth and Game 3 with no outs in the sixth. Miller, Bryan Shaw, and Cody Allen faced 37 percent of the hitters the Red Sox sent to the plate in the ALDS.
There's no reason to think Francona will change up his strategy in the ALCS. He knows is his best chance to win is by having his best players in the game as often as possible, so expect to see Miller and Allen continue to work extended outings against the Blue Jays. Salazar's potential return could help lighten the load on those guys a little, but when push comes to shove, Miller and Allen is who Francona wants on the mound.
CBS Sports predictions
What good is a preview post that doesn't include our guesses ... I mean predictions? I, personally, have failed horribly at this so far this season. Here are out ALCS predictions:
|R.J. Anderson||Mike Axisa||Jonah Keri||Dayn Perry||Matt Snyder|
|No. of Games|| 6 || 7 || 6 || 7 || 6 |
With five writers making picks, that's as much of an even split as you can get. Also of note is that all five of us expect the series to last at least six games. Let's all hope for that, shall we?