With the 2016 American League Championship Series set to begin between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians, it is set to be an interesting matchup of long vs. small ball.
In seven regular-season meetings head to head, the 94-win AL Central champion Indians defeated the AL Wild Card Blue Jays, four out of seven times. With three of the four Cleveland wins over Toronto being by one-run, the Indians are comfortable if the LCS games are close late.
Despite this, the Blue Jays outscored the Indians 38-24, with 14 of those runs coming in a 17-1 rout of the Indians, snapping their franchise-best 14-game win streak. They also out-homered the Indians 13-9 and posted a better ERA by their starters of 2.72 to 4.91.
With both teams coming in hot and off of sweeps over the favored Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers, one may have to toss all the regular-season statistics out of the proverbial window.
Below are my five reasons why the Cleveland Indians will defeat the Toronto Blue Jays
Small Ball over the Long Ball: Make no mistake, the free-swinging Blue Jays come into this LCS with the most experience and the top hitter in all of MLB postseason in 3B Josh Donaldson, who currently has a .500 batting average in four games.
The Blue Jays as a whole boast four out of the top ten hitters in the AL postseason in the aforementioned Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion (.375), Ezequiel Carrera (.375) and Troy Tulowitzki. While the Blue Jays are all about mashing for power, the Indians have Jose Ramirez (.500), Jason Kipnis (.364) and Lonnie Chisenhall. (.300), who can hit just as well.
While the Indians have the better team batting average (.271) as opposed to Toronto’s (.260), Toronto is the best in the AL postseason in hits (38), home runs (10), on-base percentage (.329), slugging percentage (.534) and on-base plus slugging average (.863)
Good Pitching Beats Good Hitting: If the Indians have any hope of beating the Blue Jays, they will need all the help in the world from their already depleted pitching unit which is without Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar.
Thru three games, the Indians have the best post-season ERA of 2.33 with Toronto right behind them at 2.77. While Cleveland has the second best opposing batting average of .214, Toronto has the best opposing batting average of .179 thru four games. Whichever team is able to establish the more dominant pitching staff will likely provide the key to the eventual winner.
Andrew Miller: To say that the Indians landed perhaps the premier gem at the trade deadline in left-handed reliever Andrew Miller from the New York Yankees is a huge understatement.
In two appearances, the 6’7 left-handed relief pitcher has seven strikeouts in 4.0 innings pitched, a WHIP of 1.00 and an ERA of 0.00
If the Indians are up late over the Jays and hope to preserve a lead, do not be surprised to see Miller often throughout this series.
Terry Francona: In beating his former team in the Boston Red Sox, it appears that Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona is weaving that old championship magic he did when he led the Red Sox to two World Series championships in 2004 and 2007. Whether it is being aggressive on the bases, calling out Miller early in games or making tactically brilliant moves. If there is any manager who can help break the Indians 68-year World Series drought, it is the man known as “Tito”
Cleveland championship mojo! To burrow from the title of the immensely popular Betty White CBS sitcom, but everything is hot in Cleveland these days! You have the newly-crowned UFC heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic, the Calder Cup champion Lake Erie—now Cleveland—Monsters and the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers all next door, there is something special happening in ‘The Best Location in The Nation”
If there is any further proof that things are lining up in the favor of the once-cursed and snake-bitten Midwestern Rust Belt sports town, look no further than the Indians tweet below.
Hello. We’re about to blow your mind.
We need 8 wins for a title.
27 outs in a game.
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) October 13, 2016
Prediction: Indians in six.