clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Series preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Toronto Blue Jays

No more 19-inning games, please.

Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

Calling the Toronto Blue Jays a "surprise" probably is not accurate, they were not exactly a terrible team coming into the season, but they have surpassed my expectations to this point. On the back of one of the best starting rotations in the American League, complete with two Cy Young contenders, and a high-powered offense, the Blue Jays present a real problem for the Cleveland Indians in this weekend series.

The last time these two teams played, they seemed to never want to stop. In one game of the series, they went a full 19 innings and the winning pitcher, Trevor Bauer, pitched five innings of shutout relief in those extra frames. It was great to watch, but it caused the Indians to stumble into the All-Star break with their bullpen and rotation all out of whack.

Cleveland has since recovered and pumped their lead in the American Central Lead to 6.0 games. While the Indians are 7-3 in their last 10 games, the second-place Detroit Tigers are 3-7. The Tribe's division lead will remain safe no matter what happens over the weekend, but making the gap as wide as possible would be ideal.

The Blue Jays are in a much tighter race, with both the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox sitting 1.5 games behind, and you cannot completely count out the New York Yankees, who are 7.5 games behind but have an exciting young core emerging.

Tonight's game could run into some issues with rain, but the rest of the weekend is supposed to be sunny with some clouds -- but no rain in sight.

Pitching matchups

Friday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) vs. Francisco Liriano (LHP)

When the Toronto Blue Jays made a deadline deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates for Francisco Liriano, the thinking was probably that they saw something they could fix with the veteran starter who had an ERA approaching 6.00. Whatever it was, they apparently have not found it, because he has allowed seven earned runs in 11.2 innings with his new team.

Trevor Bauer is having a career year in 2016, but still probably not the one the Indians envisioned when they traded for him years ago. After a hot start to the season -- once he was added to the rotation, that is -- Bauer had a rough July and early August. His last two starts were much better, including 6.1 shutout innings against the Washington Nationals back on August 9. Probably not a coincidence that his ground ball rate in his last two starts was 56.8 percent, compared to the 37.6 percent of groundballs he induced in his rough string of starts following his five-inning relief effort against the Blue Jays.

Saturday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Josh Tomlin (RHP) vs. Aaron Sanchez (RHP)

After 11 rough starts to start 2015, Aaron Sanchez was relegated to the Blue Jays bullpen. He started this season as a starter again and has had no such troubles. The 24-year-old has kept the ball on the ground 57.1 percent of the time this season, allowing just 0.59 home runs per nine innings. He does not strike a ton of guys out, at least not at an elite level, but he has done enough to put himself firmly in the wide-open American League Cy Young race with a 2.84 ERA and 3.30 FIP.

Sanchez's last start was a seven-inning effort against the Houston Astros in which he allowed two earned runs off of five hits while striking out six and walking three. He has allowed four or more runs in only four of his 23 starts this season.

Right now, the Indians still have Josh Tomlin listed as the starting pitcher on Saturday, but he is still on the family medical emergency list and could remain there until Sunday. The Indians were forced to use Mike Clevinger in long relief yesterday, so he likely would not get the start on Saturday. Instead, the Indians would likely call up a minor-leaguer to make a spot start.

If Tomlin does pitch, he could be in trouble. His home run woes are still very real, and the Toronto Blue Jays hit a ton of home runs. Not a great combination.

Sunday, 1:10 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) vs. Marcus Stroman (RHP)

Just glancing briefly at Marcus Stroman's stat line, two big things stand out in 2016: He is not stranding runners very often (67.3%), and he is allowing a lot of home runs (1.05 HR/9). These two factors are big reasons why his ERA is north of 4.60 coming into today despite a good strikeout rate and a low walk rate. His FIP sits at a more reasonable 3.85, but still nothing close to his excellent rookie campaign in which he was worth 3.0 fWAR with a 3.85 FIP.

Corey Kluber is really good, you guys.

Upcoming schedule

After wrapping up this long homestand, the Indians will hit the road to face the Oakland Athletics and a four-game set against the Texas Rangers.

* * *

Editor's Note: Win cash in your first daily fantasy baseball league or get your entry fee refunded! Offered in partnership with FanDuel.

* * *

Team in a box

Toronto Blue Jays


AL Rank


AL Rank









AL East








Last 10
















Maybe it's just me, but when I think about the Blue Jays I always default to offense. The image of Jose Bautista's bat flip comes to mind, and all I think about is the dingerz. They still have one hell of an offense, but it's their pitching that has been the story this year.

In particular, Blue Jays starting pitching has been dominant. They lead the American League in combined fWAR (11.5), ERA (3.68), and they have pitched by far the most innings among AL starters at 759.2. The next closest is the Boston Red Sox, whose starters have pitched 717.0 innings this season.

Toronto Blue Jays roster

Position players

  • C: Russell Martin
  • 1B: Justin Smoak
  • 2B: Devon Travis
  • SS: Troy Tulowitzki
  • 3B: Josh Donaldson
  • LF: Darrell Ceciliani
  • CF: Melvin Upton Jr.
  • RF: Michael Saunders
  • DH: Edwin Encarnacion


  • C: Josh Thole
  • INF: Darwin Barney
  • OF: Ezequiel Carrera

Josh Donaldson still looks like an MVP for the Blue Jays, sporting a 6.2 fWAR through 119 games. His 154 wRC+ leads the team, as well, as does his 14.4 percent walk rate. The only player to hit more home runs than Donaldson is Edwin Encarnacion with 34. Two other players -- Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Saunders -- also have 20 or more home runs.

Starting pitchers

  • RHP: Marco Estrada
  • RHP: Aaron Sanchez
  • LHP: JA Happ
  • RHP: RA Dickey
  • RHP: Marcus Stroman
  • LHP: Francisco Liriano


  • RHP: Joaquin Benoit
  • RHP: Joe Biagini
  • LHP: Brett Cecil
  • RHP: Scott Feldman
  • RHP: Jason Grilli
  • RHP: Roberto Osuna
  • RHP: Ryan Terpera

Just a friendly reminder that the Blue Jays traded Noah Syndergaard for R.A. Dickey. That's a thing that happened.


  • OF: Jose Bautista, 15-day DL (Knee)
  • OF: Kevin Pillar, 15-day DL (Thumb)
  • RHP: Gavin Floyd, 60-day DL (Lat)