For a team that made the playoffs on the last day of the regular season, the Toronto Blue Jays are on a roll.

The power bats of Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki may be the most notable factors in the Blue Jays’ postseason surge, but there is a lot more to manager John Gibbons’ team that could lead to yet another victory over the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship Series.

The Indians may have been even more impressive than the Jays, as they disposed of the American League East champion Boston Red Sox in a three-game sweep. Cleveland’s depleted starting pitching staff shut down the booming bats of the Red Sox.

The first game of the American League Championship Series at Cleveland Friday night figures to be a taut pitcher’s duel between Toronto’s Marco Estrada and Cleveland strikeout machine Corey Kluber.

Kluber was 18-9 with a 3.14 earned run average while striking out 227 batters in 215.0 innings this season. He also had an excellent 1.056 WHIP.

Estrada was 9-9 with a 3.48 ERA, and those numbers don’t compare with Kluber. However, Estrada had a 1.119 WHIP, and that indicates he should be up to the task of starting the series opener for the Jays.

The key for Cleveland is that there should be less pressure on Kluber (and subsequent starters) because of the Indians’ superior bullpen.

Andrew Miller may not throw quite as hard as Aroldis Chapman of the Chicago Cubs, but he may be a more effective pitcher. Manager Terry Francona can use him at any time from the fifth inning on for up to 40 pitches. 

Miller was 4-0 with the Indians after coming over from the New York Yankees in a trade. Miller had a 1.55 ERA in 26 appearances, with a sensational 0.552 WHIP.

Even though Miller is Cleveland’s best pitcher out of the bullpen, Francona uses Cody Allen (32 saves) to close out most games and get the save. That gives the manager the opportunity to use Miller in the most dangerous situations.

Game 1 also features two of MLB’s best shortstops.

Tulowitzki‘s all-around play may be the key for the Blue Jays. He’s a big man (6’3″, 205 lbs) who hit 24 home runs and knocked in 79 runs this season, but it’s his athleticism at shortstop that often separates him from the competition.

“He brought a different element of poise and calmness to our club,” right fielder Bautista told Richard Justice of “Most of us are the excited, fiery type player that plays with a lot of emotion and experiences a lot of ups and downs. He’s kind of the guy that stays even. It’s great to have him in the dugout and clubhouse.”

The Indians have their own stud at shortstop in 22-year-old Francisco Lindor. His home run in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Red Sox lit a fuse in the Cleveland dugout and lifted the confidence of the Progressive Field crowd.

Lindor had a .301/.358/.435 slash line in 2016 while hitting 15 home runs and driving in 78 runs. He also stole 19 bases in 24 attempts, but it is his defense that sets him apart.

“It’s just how smooth and under control he is in a lot of aspects of his game that’s so impressive,” second baseman Jason Kipnis told Justice. “He just glides. He’s a very quick learner, and the moment doesn’t get too big for him. He has a right way of approaching the game.”


Keys for Toronto to win Game 1 

The Blue Jays need to get their power bats going against Kluber. That won’t be easy, but with sluggers like Encarnacion, Donaldson, Bautista and Tulowitzki in the lineup, the big names must produce.

Additionally, Estrada must come through with a strong starting effort. Gibbons probably needs six full innings from him before he can go to his bullpen with any comfort.


Keys for Cleveland to win Game 1 

Kluber is a dominating starting pitcher, and he must pitch like one as the Indians open the series at home. He needs to show he can shut down Toronto’s big bats the same way he did against Boston.

The Indians are not the slugging team that the Blue Jays are, but they showed they could deliver clutch hits in the Boston series. They need sluggers Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli to deliver key hits, and they also need production from Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Tyler Naquin.

Read more MLB news on