Marcus Stroman is about to pitch one of the biggest games of his life for the Toronto Blue Jays.

When he takes the mound Monday at the Rogers Centre against the Cleveland Indians for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, he will be attempting to keep his team in the series and out of a desperation 0-3 hole.

Despite possessing a huge power advantage with Edwin Encarnacion (42 home runs, 127 RBI during the regular season), Josh Donaldson (37 homers, 99 RBI), Troy Tulowitzki (24 home runs) and Jose Bautista (22 home runs), the Blue Jays scored a grand total of one run in the two games played in Cleveland and are down 0-2.

The Blue Jays’ inability to get to Cleveland starters Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin in the first two games caused huge problems. The Indians were able to build small but significant leads at 2-0 and 2-1, and that enabled Cleveland manager Terry Francona to turn the game over to his scintillating bullpen. The Toronto Star‘s Richard Griffin (via his colleague Brendan Kennedy) elaborated on the dominance of Cleveland’s bullpen:

That’s something Toronto manager John Gibbons does not want to see. The Cleveland bullpen, led by the redoubtable 6’7″ left-hander Andrew Miller, may be the single most intimidating weapon of the postseason.

The Cleveland bullpen will almost certainly have an opportunity in Game 3 Monday night, but the Blue Jays need to find a way to get to starting pitcher Trevor Bauer before the bullpen gets called into action.

Encarnacion and Donaldson should be able to hammer the ball off of Bauer. The Cleveland starting pitcher was 12-8 during the regular season but posted an ERA of 4.26 and a WHIP of 1.311.

The Blue Jays should be able to find a way to get to him and get their booming bats going. They ripped through a strong Texas Rangers pitching staff by scoring 22 runs in three games, but the Indians’ pitching staff simply hasn’t allowed the Blue Jays to gain any traction.

Nevertheless, Donaldson says the Blue Jays believe they have the ability to turn things around. 

“Everyone in this room is confident,” Donaldson told Andrew Marchand of “We get to play three at home. We feel good at home. We feel good in playing in front of our fans. They have had two to play in front of their fans.”

They should feel confident that they can get to Bauer, who was pushed back from a Game 2 start after cutting the pinkie finger on his right hand while trying to repair a drone, according to’s Jerry Crasnick:

However, once the game gets turned over to Miller, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen, the Blue Jays need to have the lead or they will be playing with fire.

Miller has thrown 3.2 scoreless innings against the Blue Jays in Games 1 and 2, and there is no reason to think Francona will lessen his workload in Toronto. Allen closed out each of the first two games, while Shaw, who appeared in 75 games in the regular season, has been a workhorse for the Indians.


Keys for Cleveland

The Indians must get another strong pitching effort from their starter. Francona can’t expect Bauer to come through with a Kluber-like effort, but if he can provide five solid innings and the Indians are within a run, they should have an excellent chance of tying the game or going ahead in the late innings. If he can leave with the lead, the Tribe will likely secure a 3-0 series advantage.

Carlos Santana hit a home run in Game 2, and that’s not a surprise, considering he hit 34 home runs during the regular season. Mike Napoli also hit 34 bombs during the regular season, and the Indians would like to see him come through with a long ball or two in Toronto.

Of course, the Indians need superior relief pitching from their bullpen stars. As good as Miller is, he can’t have any lapses. Allen will likely be asked to close out the game if the Tribe has the lead. He needs to remain consistent against a powerful lineup.


Keys for Toronto

The Blue Jays need to jump out to an early lead and then keep adding to it. The best thing they can do for themselves and their fans is get runs in the first inning. They need to dictate the pace of the game by hitting the ball hard from the start against Bauer, who is not an ace.

They must also run the bases well—take the extra base when it is available, but don’t force the issue. Cleveland is a strong defensive team and would be happy to take advantage of reckless baserunning.

Finally, Stroman needs to do a solid job. He pitched six innings and gave up two runs in the Wild Card Game victory over the Baltimore Orioles. A similar or better effort will be needed here.


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