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Toronto Blue Jays at Cleveland Indians series preview

This was a successful home stand regardless of what happens this weekend. With that being said, another series victory would be nice.

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Damn, what a difference a week can make. As the Indians limped home from the west coast, the internet was ablaze with the hottest of takes and the darkest despair. But after the first seven games at Progressive Field this season, all worry seems to have evaporated as the Indians have gone 6-1 leading into this final weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Looking ahead

The Indians finish up at home this weekend and will then fly to Minnesota San Juan, Puerto Rico to face the Twins for two games before heading back stateside for a four-game set with the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. The Blue Jays will head back home next Monday to welcome the Royals for a three-game set before packing up and flying to New York to take on the Yankees next weekend.

Pitching match-ups

Friday, April 13 7:10 p.m. ET: Marcus Stroman (RHP) v. Mike Clevinger (RHP)

Marcus Stroman had an average season in 2016 before bouncing back for an amazing 2017. Stroman, 27, was a top 10 pitcher in the AL last season, receiving enough votes to rank eighth in Cy Young voting while also getting a Gold Glove for his defensive work on the mound. Last season, the sinkerballer threw 201.0 innings and allowed just 69 earned runs while walking 62 and striking out 164 (which translates to an ERA+ of 149). Unfortunately, the 2018 campaign has not started well for Stroman; in the 9.2 innings he’s thrown, he’s allowed 9 earned runs and hasn’t gotten out of the 5th inning in either of his starts. His last start came on April 7 against the Texas Rangers; in that game, Stroman went 4.2 innings and allowed 5 earned runs on 6 hits while walking 5 and striking out 3.

Mike Clevinger continues to dazzle on the mound in his first full season as a member of the starting rotation. His most recent start came on April 8 against the Kansas City Royals; in that game, Clevinger went 7.1 dominant innings while allowing just 1 run on 10 hits while walking 2 and striking out 4.

Saturday, April 14 4:10 p.m. ET: Jaime Garcia (LHP) v. Corey Kluber (RHP)

Jaime Garcia bounced around the league last season. He spent time with the Atlanta Braves, Minnesota Twins, and the New York Yankees before the season ended. He was signed to a 1-year deal by the Blue Jays this past February and was the final piece of the Blue Jays starting rotation puzzle. Across all teams last season, when all of Garcia’s numbers were tallied, he was decidedly average. He threw 157.0 innings and allowed 77 earned runs while walking 64 and striking out 129 (which translates to an ERA+ of 100, exactly average). 2018, on the other hand, has started off great for Garcia. In his two starts so far, Garcia has allowed just 4 runs across 11.1 innings. His most recent start came on April 8 against the Texas Rangers; in that game, Garcia went 5.1 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 5 hits while walking 2 and striking out 5.

To quote our fearless leader here at LGT:

“he throw ball real good,”

Granted, that quote was in regards to Carlos Carrasco, but it can be applied to Corey Kluber as well. There are some who believe that Kluber is the best pitcher in baseball, and at any rate, he may be the best pitcher right now. He’s pitched in three games (23.0 innings) thus far in 2018 and has allowed 4 earned runs. His most recent start was his best one of 2018. On April 9, Corey Kluber faced off against the Detroit Tigers and went 8.0 innings while allowing zero runs on 2 hits while walking 1 and striking out 13. I concur, Mr. Lyons, he throw ball real good.

Sunday, April 15 1:10 p.m. ET: J.A. Happ (LHP) v. Josh Tomlin (RHP)

J.A. Happ is entering his third season with the Blue Jays since his return in 2016 (he was with the Blue Jays previously from 2012-2014), and he looks to be another key part of the rotation this season. After a horrendous head injury in 2013, Happ has bounced back and continued to have a successful career. Last season, Happ threw 145.1 innings and allowed 57 earned runs while walking 46 and striking out 142 (which translates to an ERA+ of 130). His 2018 campaign has gotten off to a good start; in his three starts, Happ has went 16.0 innings and allowed 7 earned runs. His most recent start was on April 9 against the Baltimore Orioles; in that game, Happ went 6.0 innings and allowed just 1 earned run on 5 hits while walking 3 and striking out 9.

Josh Tomlin bounced back after the worst start of his career and tossed a solid game against the Detroit Tigers on April 10. In that game, Tomlin went 5.0 innings of shutout ball on 4 hits while walking 2 and striking out 3. He did lower his season ERA by 15 runs, however, so if this trend continues, he will finish Sunday with an ERA of -6.00. To put that in perspective, Corey Kluber still has a positive ERA of 1.57 #scrub.

Players to watch

  • Justin Smoak - Smoak had shown flashes of excellence since 2013, but he didn’t put it all together until last season when he had a breakout season in his age 30 season. He finally played his first full season as an everyday player and he looked fantastic. He played in all but four games for the Blue Jays and he was named to the AL All-Star team for the first time in his career. His slash line backed this up; last season, Smoak owned a slash line of .270/.355/.529 (which translates to a wRC+ of 132). His walk rate suddenly shot up and continues to do so in 2018 and his strikeout rate plummeted from awful levels to merely average levels. Smoak also got in on the home run explosion, hitting a team-leading 38 bombs. His hot start in 2018 (.313/.414/.542 across 58 PAs) is aided by a BABIP 100 points above his career average, so his numbers will drop as his luck normalizes. Regardless, expect Smoak to be an offensive threat all weekend.
  • Yangervis Solarte - Since 2014 when he entered the league, Solarte has quietly been a solid utility player for both the Yankees and the Padres and was able to hold his own in the couple of seasons where he was an everyday player. Devon Travis will block him at second base this season and Troy Tulowitzki and Aledmys Diaz will block him at shortstop, but he will be able to slot into either position for match-ups and days off, so he will get significant playing time this season. He’s yet to walk so far in 2018 and he hasn’t had many hits, but of the seven hits that he has had, five of them have gone for extra bases (two doubles and three home runs). His BABIP is also sitting at a dismal .160, more than 100 points lower than his career norm. Look to Solarte to bat and produce in key situations this weekend.
  • Danny Barnes - Barnes entered the majors in 2016 and has been a solid late innings reliever for the Blue Jays in that time frame. He pitched in 66.0 innings last season and allowed 26 earned runs. He has a tendency to give up too many home runs, but his WHIP last year (1.091) was excellent, indicating that he was able to minimize traffic on the bases. In the 6.1 innings he’s pitched so far this season, he’s allowed just one run (a home run) and has struck out 8. He’s not the closer for the Blue Jays, but look for him to pitch some high leverage innings late in games.
  • Roberto Osuna - Osuna is the closer for the Blue Jays, and he’s been absolutely dominant since entering the majors in 2015. He pitched fewer innings last season than he had in either of the previous two, but he was just as effective in the innings that he did pitch. He’s got a mid-90s sinker and four-seam fastball that he uses to get batters to either strike out or ground out. In 2017, Osuna pitched in 64.0 innings and struck out 83 and walked only 9 (which translates to an ERA+ of 137). His WHIP has always been sub-1.00, so if the Blue Jays are up in the ninth inning, expect Osuna to come in and not let anyone get on base. In the 6.1 innings he’s thrown so far this season, Osuna has not allowed a run and, while he’s only struck out 3, he has only allowed 2 hits while walking no one.


The offense is alive

The offense, after being the worst in MLB prior to the previous series, suddenly came alive and began hitting like everyone anticipated that they would. The pitching was excellent during the Detroit series, but the offense giving the rotation some breathing room was certainly a welcome change.

What’s up with Andrew Miller?

On the surface, Andrew Miller has been Andrew Miller. His wipeout slider is still making hitters look silly and he’s yet to allow a run this season. However, digging a bit deeper into his numbers, we see that he’s suddenly walking a lot more hitters and allowing more hits than usual, which is putting more traffic on the bases and forcing the big man to get out of his own jams. It’s really, really hard to complain about your star reliever when he hasn’t given up a run, but the hope is that Miller will correct the control issues that have plagued him early this season before they eventually catch up with him.

Toronto Blue Jays roster



How many games will the Indians win against the Blue Jays?

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  • 21%
    (32 votes)
  • 59%
    (90 votes)
  • 13%
    (20 votes)
  • 5%
    (9 votes)
151 votes total Vote Now