The Toronto Blue Jays have their first taste of victory in the American League Championship Series after picking up a 5-1 triumph in Game 4, and that appears to be the beginning of a momentum change in the series.

The Blue Jays got the best of Cleveland ace Corey Kluber, as Josh Donaldson’s third-inning home run gave Toronto the lead for the first time in the series. The Blue Jays were able to build on that lead, and after the Indians cut into the advantage and made it a 2-1 game, Edwin Encarnacion knocked in two runs with a bases-loaded single in the seventh inning.

By itself, it looks like the Blue Jays still have a huge mountain to climb to get back into the series since they trail 3-1. However, the Indians have a problem with their starting pitching.

Outside of Kluber and Josh Tomlin, manager Terry Francona has few viable options open to him because injuries have caused big problems. In addition to Trevor Bauer and his bleeding pinkie finger, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar are both injured.

As a result, the Indians will send untested left-hander Ryan Merritt to the mound Wednesday afternoon at the Rogers Centre in Toronto for a 4:08 p.m. ET start. Merritt spent most of the year at Triple-A Columbus and pitched just 11 innings for the Indians.

While he did relatively well in his small sample size by allowing six hits and two earned runs, he simply does not have the kind of experience that is usually associated with a postseason starter.

That makes it difficult for the Indians to take the field with true confidence in Game 5. 

Jose Bautista said the Cleveland starter may have a difficult time believing in his ability to get the Blue Jays out. 

“With our experience in our lineup, I’m pretty sure he’s going to be shaking in his boots more than we are,” Bautista told Ben Nicholson-Smith of

In addition to Merritt’s lack of experience, the Indians are not an offensive juggernaut at this point. They have scored nine runs in four games, and they have yet to score a run from the seventh inning on in the postseason.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays will send Marco Estrada to the mound with the hope of bringing the series back to Cleveland for the sixth game October 21.

Estrada did not have a sensational year as he finished 9-9 with a 3.48 ERA and a 1.119 WHIP. Estrada has pitched 16.1 innings in the postseason, and he picked up a win over the Texas Rangers in the American League Division Series and lost the opener to the Indians in the ALCS by a 2-0 margin.

The Blue Jays and Indians know that Estrada is capable of pitching an excellent game. Neither team knows what Merritt is capable of doing.

The oddsmakers have taken notice in the disparity among the Game 5 starting pitchers. The Blue Jays are minus-175 favorites, according to Odds Shark. The Indians are plus-165 underdogs to come away with the win and clinch a World Series berth.



The worm has turned in the ALCS, and while it will still take quite a bit for the Blue Jays to come all the way back and join the 2004 Boston Red Sox as the only team in MLB history to come back from a 3-0 deficit and win the series, the Blue Jays should find a way to extend the series to six games.

Estrada is a strong pitcher, and the Blue Jays are getting enough hitting from Donaldson and Encarnacion to give them the belief that they will score enough runs to win. If Troy Tulowitzki and the slumping Bautista join the hitting parade, this game could turn into a rout.

Cleveland won a bullpen game in Game 3 when Bauer’s finger started to bleed badly in the first inning, and Francona had to remove him after just two outs. 

Perhaps Merritt can give the Indians three innings or more in this assignment, and the bullpen can take over from there. With Andrew Miller and Cody Allen dominating, they certainly have the relief pitchers to do an excellent job.

However, the Blue Jays are not going to let this opportunity slip away and will earn the Game 5 win.

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