No matter who wins the upcoming American League Championship Series, the Toronto Blue Jays or Cleveland Indians will inject the World Series with fresh blood.

After winning the title in 1993, the Blue Jays went 21 seasons without a playoff berth until last year. After falling short against the Kansas City Royals in 2015, they have another chance to advance beyond the ALCS.

Cleveland, meanwhile, hasn’t made it this far since 2007, when it squandered a 3-1 lead against the Boston Red Sox.

Which franchise will take one more step toward reversing years of misfortune? Let’s break down the fight for the AL crown after running through the series schedule and updated World Series odds, courtesy of Odds Shark:


ALCS Preview

Cleveland and Toronto finished the season ranked No. 7 and No. 9, respectively, in team OPS. They both flexed their power during American League Division Series sweeps; the Indians went deep five times, while the Blue Jays belted eight home runs.

Yet their stellar pitching especially stands out against tough opponents. The Blue Jays—who led the AL in ERA, one spot ahead of the Indians—limited the Texas Rangers to 10 runs despite both squads hosting games in hitter’s parks.

The Indians faced a steep challenge against Boston’s MLB-best offense without Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, two of their three best starting pitchers.

Challenge accepted.

They held the Red Sox to seven runs and recorded 31 strikeouts.

Without his usual No. 2 and No. 3 starters flanking ace Corey Kluber, manager Terry Francona must continue to rely heavily on his bullpen. In the previous round, he asked star reliever Andrew Miller to deliver a two-inning outing twice.

Miller, who recorded a 1.45 ERA, a 0.69 WHIP, 123 strikeouts and nine walks during the regular season, delivered four scoreless innings. 

In Fox Sports’ studio, Alex Rodriguez called his former New York Yankees teammate “the best reliever in the game”:

Francona‘s usage worked out perfectly, as Kluber and Cleveland’s offense made sure they didn’t need Miller during a 6-0 victory in Game 2. In a best-of-seven series against a deeper Blue Jays rotation and a red-hot offense, though, he might not get as lucky.

Despite hopes of Salazar returning, Francona is not counting on having the explosive righty, per the team’s Twitter account:

That means rookie Mike Clevinger, who posted a 5.26 ERA without making it through the sixth inning of any outing in the regular season, is in line to start Game 4.

The Blue Jays have no such rotation worries. Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman and AL ERA leader Aaron Sanchez offer four trustworthy choices. While the Indians would have to consider using Kluber on short rest if they go down 2-1 or 3-0, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons can comfortably arrange his four options in any order on a normal schedule.

Toronto’s injury concerns lie elsewhere.

Veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit suffered a torn calf during a bench-clearing scrum against the New York Yankees near the season’s finish.

Per Sportsnet’s Arden Zwelling, he won’t return:

Devon Travis’ prognosis is better. Despite missing the final two games of the ALDS, the starting second baseman said he is “feeling much better” and should play in Friday’s series opener after receiving a cortisone shot in his right knee, per Zwelling.

“Honestly, the biggest thing is pain management,” Travis said. “Hopefully [the cortisone] calms it down. I don’t see why I wouldn’t be able to get through this. This is the playoffs. It’s something we’ve worked all year for. I’m going to get back in there and do my job.”

The offense kept raking without him, but not because of replacement Darwin Barney, who went hitless in both games. Even though he’s rolling, inserting Ezequiel Carrera—holder of a .255/.314/.665 slash line—into the leadoff spot isn’t the best way to set the table for Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

Travis, who hit .300/.332/.454 during his second season in the big leagues, provides a sizable boost despite not walking enough for an optimal No. 1 hitter. Then again, Gibbons might stick with Carrera, who is 6-for-16 with two walks and four runs in the postseason.



The Blue Jays wield a mighty advantage with their starting rotation, especially if the lineup can get to Kluber. The Indians, on the other hand, can unleash Miller and Cody Allen in the bullpen. They’re also faster in the field and on the bases.

As the Royals proved last year, a stellar rotation isn’t required for postseason success. A solid one helps, though.

With all three star sluggers on fire, look for Toronto’s big bats to inflict more damage on Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin than Boston could impose. Miller and Allen should narrow the gap, but they won’t be able to extinguish all of Cleveland’s fires through seven games.

Pick: Blue Jays win in seven games.

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