Last night's game was neat and tidy. A pitcher's duel was advertised, and we got a pitcher's duel; Marco Estrada pitched well enough to earn a win on most nights, but his one mistake of the night cost him 2 runs and the loss. Today, with a 1-0 lead in the ALCS, the Cleveland Indians will try and get to within two wins of the World Series before heading to the frigid north for (potentially) three games in Toronto. Here's what to expect.
How to watch
First pitch for today's game will be at 4:00 PM EST on *sigh* TBS.
Yesterday's game, on paper, seemed to favor the Cleveland Indians since Corey Kluber was starting. Today, Trevor Bauer would have started against J.A. Happ had he not injured himself in a way that only he could have. So, in Bauer's place will be Josh Tomlin. You would think that this would be a game that favors Toronto, but FiveThiryEight currently has the odds at 50/50 for both teams. So, in a way, maybe Bauer getting bumped to the game in Toronto is for the best. The idea of Tomlin pitching in the launching pad that is the Rogers Centre is a terrifying prospect.
If you thought that Marco Estrada was good, J.A. Happ has been arguably better when it comes to the 2016 season. While he hasn't been quite as dominant as Estrada in the postseason, he still looked solid whem he out-dueled Yu Darvish on October 7, going 5.0 innings and allowing just 1 run on 9 hits. A big difference between Estrada and Happ is that Happ utilizes a sinker as his primary out pitch, whereas Estrada used a deceptive changeup to fool Tribe hitters on Friday night. His sinker has a hard break and produces ground balls roughly 15% of the time. We all know that Cleveland struggled in the regular season with grounding into double plays, and it would see like today's game has a high probability of that happening a few times. Happ doesn't strike out a lot of batters (7.52 K/9 in 2016), so expect the ball to be put in play fairly often. His xFIP in 2016 was 4.18, so Happ is not un-hittable by any means; that being said, he won't be a pushover either.
Josh Tomlin shocked everyone on October 10 when he shut the Boston Red Sox down for five innings, giving up only 2 earned runs (!) and zero home runs (!!) in Boston (!!!). He'll be facing a lineup equally as dangerous, if not moreso. With players like Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Troy Tulowitzki, Tomlin will have to be extra careful to minimize the home run ball if he wants to succeed. When he faced the Red Sox, he succeeded by constantly mixing his speeds and having a consistent release point for every single one of his pitches, which minimized tipping off any of his pitches. He lived on the outer edge of the plate for that entire game, so it'll be important for him to establish the outside part of the strike zone early in order to get that call as the game progresses. Tomlin has always relied on precision and sequencing to get by; he'll have to be at his best today if he is going to survive against the Blue Jays.
Key to the game: Force Happ to make more pitches than Estrada
Last night, Marco Estrada threw 101 pitches and Corey Kluber threw 100 pitches. The difference? Kluber only lasted 6.1 innings, whereas Estrada threw a complete game. At 101 pitches and 30 batters faced for Estrada, that's an average of 3.4 pitches per at-bat. Indians hitters were overly aggressive at the plate last night, and it allowed Estrada to have quick innings and not walk many batters because the Indians were swinging at his pitches (which often included a devastating changeup). There are guys in the lineup, namely Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli, who are known for seeing a lot of pitches per at bat and making the pitcher work. In order for Cleveland to succeed today, they will need to allow Happ to make mistakes and get into some hitter's counts early. Happ is going to throw the sinker a lot, and chances are it's going to drop out of the zone. Cleveland hitters will need to identify the sinker early in the game and let it go when they recognize it; by doing so, they will force Happ to throw his other pitches for strikes and give themselves a chance to do some damage against a good pitcher.