Tag: American League

ALCS Schedule 2016: Indians vs. Blue Jays Game Times, Odds and Prediction

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 Sportsnet.ca.

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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Blue Jays vs. Indians: Keys for Each Team to Win ALCS Game 1

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 MLB.com. “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.

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ALCS Schedule 2016: Dates, TV Schedule, Early Odds and Pick

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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ALDS 2016: Keys for the Red Sox and Indians to Win Game 3

Sunday’s American League Division Series Game 3 between the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park was postponed because of heavy rain in Boston, so the teams will meet Monday night with the first pitch scheduled for 6:08 p.m. ET. Now, the Red Sox and Indians know which team awaits them in the American League Championship Series—the Toronto Blue Jays.

Toronto completed its sweep of the top-seeded Texas Rangers after taking Game 3 in 10 innings. The Jays walked off, ironically, after a throwing error on the back end of a potential double play by Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor. Yes, the same guy who clocked Jose Bautista in the face back in May. It was Toronto that got the last laugh, and now the Blue Jays have some time to wait for the Red Sox and Indians to wrap up their series. 

In Game 2 between Boston and Cleveland on Friday afternoon, Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber blanked the Red Sox for seven innings, and the Tribe would go on to secure the victory by a score of 6-0. As has been the case in his career, David Price came up small in the postseason again in Game 2, giving up five earned runs over just 3.1 innings of work. 

Now, fighting for their season, the Red Sox will have to repeat the daunting task they performed back in 1999—win three straight games in a division series to climb out of an 0-2 hole and topple the Indians. Counting the Red Sox out, however, would be foolish. We vividly remember the astonishing comeback they mounted in the 2004 ALCS. 

Monday night, Boston will turn to Clay Buchholz to try to salvage its season. Cleveland plans to counter with Josh Tomlin as it tries to bury the Red Sox before they can begin to generate any semblance of momentum in this series. 

The keys for the Red Sox lie with the rejuvenation of the newly dormant Boston offense and with Buchholz.

What else is there to say about the Red Sox’s batting performance? The lineup that terrorized baseball from April to September has vanished, and although it might be painfully obvious, Boston’s game plan all year was to run up the score, not win close contests with superb starting pitching and strong relief. The bats are what led the team to outscore its opponents by 184 runs, by far the largest margin of any team in the American League. 

To help put that in perspective, the Texas Rangers, who won 95 games and claimed the top seed in the American League playoffs, scored only eight more runs than the opposition in 2016. 

Although Boston trots out one of the deepest lineups in all of baseball, its best chance to hang some numbers other than zero on Fenway’s manual scoreboard comes from the guys at the top and in the middle of its lineup. And while manager John Farrell will gladly take runs at any time during the game at this point in the series, the Red Sox need to pounce on the Indians early in Game 3, or they run the risk of facing Cleveland’s rested bullpen with a run gap to close. 

As for where the production will come from, the pressure is on Mookie Betts, twilight-of-his-career David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez. Those guys hit third, fourth and fifth in Game 2, going a combined 1-for-11 with a walk. Another performance resembling Friday’s from those three guys—of all of whom hit at least 30 home runs in the regular season—could very well result in a depressing sweep. 

The other key for Boston is a strong performance from Buchholz, the 32-year-old who has never won a playoff game and pitched to a poor 4.78 ERA in 21 starts this year. Although the numbers aren’t great, Buchholz finished the season by going 4-0 with a 2.92 ERA in his final eight starts.

Against the Indians, Buchholz must keep runners off the basepaths, especially by not issuing walks. Buchholz’s WHIP in 2016 was a subpar 1.33, and if he allows runners into scoring position on Monday, Cleveland has guys capable of coming up with timely hits. 

On Buchholz’s upcoming start, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe gave some telling insight:

Some smarty pants is probably thinking, “Yeah right. Clay Buchholz to save the day? Clay Buchholz to the rescue? Clay Buchholz to do what a 22-game winner [Porcello] and a former Cy Young winner [Price] couldn’t do?” There may not be a lot of logic in the thinking that he could do it, but what logic was there in the Indians beating two pitchers who combined for 39 regular-season wins?

I predict we will find out early on in Monday’s game whether Buchholz is up to the task, and if he isn’t, the Red Sox could very well meet the same fate as the Rangers. 

Despite being up 2-0 in this best-of-five series, the Indians cannot afford to let up. Cleveland has its own set of keys to focus on if it wants to close out Boston, something the Indians were unable to do in the 2007 ALCS, when they led the Red Sox 3-1 before losing in seven games. 

Much has been said about the success and unconventionality of Cleveland’s bullpen, especially because of the way manager Terry Francona navigated the second half of his team’s 5-4 win in Game 1. However, just as the Red Sox will have to rely on their starter, one of the keys for an Indians sweep is Tomlin rising to the occasion—one that will unfold under perhaps the brightest lights of Tomlin’s career. 

Tomlin’s regular-season numbers are not going to astound anyone, but they topped those of Buchholz in most categories. The key for Tomlin relates directly to stopping what Boston’s sluggers need to donamely, using their power to drive in runs. 

Tomlin’s regular-season ERA didn’t best Buchholz’s by much at 4.40, but what’s most notable is his history facing the Red Sox hitters he’ll see in Game 3. 

Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia are most familiar with Tomlin, as they have each had 17 at-bats against the right-hander. In those meetings, Ortiz tallied three hits, while Pedroia had five. As is to be expected, the younger guys in Boston’s lineup have less experience against Tomlin, although shortstop Xander Bogaerts is 3-7 against Tomlin, while Betts is just 1-6. 

Tomlin’s job will be to mitigate the power of the Boston hitters who are most likely to do damage. If he can do that, as Trevor Bauer and Kluber were mostly able to do in the first two games, Tomlin will, at the very least, put the Indians in a position to be competitive deep into the game. 

As for Cleveland’s offensive attack, the team cannot rely on the home run as it has largely done over the first two games. In Game 1, the bulk of the runs came via three solo home runs over the course of four batters, and in Game 2, the most significant blow was a three-run shot from Lonnie Chisenhall. Along with those homers, the Indians have gotten valuable production from Jason Kipnis, who is hitting .571 with three runs batted in so far in the series.  

The key for Cleveland on offense, though, will be to continue its dominance of Red Sox pitching with runners in scoring position. In Game 1, the Indians went 2-for-3 with RISP and 3-for-7 in Game 2. That is part of a formula for postseason success. 

The home runs have been nice, sure, but it would be unwise for the Indians to depend on the long ball to propel them. Of the four players who have homered for Cleveland in this series, two of them—Roberto Perez and Chisenhall—hit fewer than 10 home runs during the regular season, and Francisco Lindor, who went deep in Game 1, hit just 15. 

The Indians must focus on timely hitting and execution from hitters throughout the lineup as they set their sights on the championship series. Whichever team can achieve its winning hallmarks will have a date with Toronto, which is a daunting prospect at the moment. 

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MLB Playoff Schedule 2016: Live Stream, Bracket Predictions for Sunday’s ALDS

It’s now or never for the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers.

Both teams are down 0-2 in their respective playoff series against the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays, and they must come up with wins Sunday if they are to remain alive in the postseason.

While the Red Sox are at least back at Fenway Park for Game 3 (and Game 4, if necessary), the Rangers are on the road at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.


Texas at Toronto, 7:38 p.m. ET, Toronto leads 2-0

That’s clearly a difficult task for the Rangers, but it’s one that is not impossible to overcome. Just one year ago, these same two teams met in the ALDS, and the Rangers took a 2-0 lead by winning the first two games in Toronto. The Blue Jays went on the road for Games 3 and 4 and won both of those games before returning home for Game 5 and winning that as well.

If the Rangers are going to pay the Blue Jays back, it will start with getting a strong effort from starting pitcher Colby Lewis. The Rangers starters have been hit hard by Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki, and that has allowed the Blue Jays to earn early leads and play with confidence.

Lewis, who was 6-5 with a 3.71 earned run average and a 1.126 WHIP, will need to be at his best to keep the Toronto bats in check. 

Aaron Sanchez will be on the mound for the Blue Jays, and he had a sensational 15-2 season with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.167 WHIP. Sanchez was at his best in the regular-season finale when he shut down the Red Sox at Fenway Park, and that helped the Blue Jays earn their spot in the playoffs.

In addition to getting a top effort from Lewis, the Rangers will need the big hitters in their lineup to pick up their production. Rougned Odor and Adrian Beltre are the keys to the Texas attack, as those two combined for 65 home runs this season. Neither player has hit a home run in the first two games of the series.

None of their teammates have hit a home run, either. That needs to change in Game 3.


Prediction: The Rangers should be at their best in this elimination game. Look for them to stay close throughout, but Sanchez can be a shutdown pitcher, and he should get the job done here. He will give the Blue Jays eight strong innings, and Toronto sweeps the series with a 2-1 victory.


Cleveland at Boston, 4:08 p.m. ET, Cleveland leads 2-0

Clay Buchholz will get the ball for the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon, and that’s quite a turnaround for a pitcher who was dropped from the rotation earlier this year.

However, when he got his second chance from manager John Farrell, Buchholz did a much better job in the final weeks of the season. Buchholz made a mechanical change to his delivery, as he decided to pitch from the stretch throughout the game.

After eliminating his windup, Buchholz became a much more effective pitcher. He was 3-0 in his final four starts with a 3.14 ERA and a 1.151 WHIP. Those numbers represent a significant improvement over his season-long numbers that included an 8-10 record with a 4.78 ERA.

Boston starters Rick Porcello and David Price were hit hard in Games 1 and 2, and the Red Sox need Buchholz to give them six solid innings.

They also need their hitters to pick it up after a disappointing performance in Cleveland. Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, David Ortiz, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. need to start hitting the ball well if the Red Sox are going to resemble the team that led the American League with 878 runs scored.

The Indians were the beneficiaries of clutch hitting and excellent pitching performances by reliever Andrew Miller in Game 1 and starter Corey Kluber in Game 2. They are sending Josh Tomlin to the mound at Fenway Park, and if manager Terry Francona can get five or six innings from him before turning the game over to the Indians bullpen, he should be happy.

Cleveland will look to sluggers Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana for offensive production. Both players hit 34 home runs this season and are capable of big games in Boston.


Prediction: The Indians will not fade away on the road, and they will get at least three runs off of Buchholz. However, the Red Sox offense will come alive, and they will hit Tomlin and the Cleveland pitching staff hard. The Red Sox get back in the series with an 8-4 victory.

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Red Sox vs. Indians: Game 2 Score and Twitter Reaction from 2016 MLB Playoffs

Lonnie Chisenhall’s three-run home run and Corey Kluber’s fantastic start carried the Cleveland Indians to a 6-0 victory and 2-0 lead over the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series. 

The big question on Cleveland’s side coming into Friday’s game was how Kluber would fare in his first start since leaving a September 26 game against the Detroit Tigers after four innings with a strained quad. 

Red Sox leadoff hitter Dustin Pedroia put Kluber to work right away, hitting a tapper back to the mound that the 2014 American League Cy Young winner had to move to field. He fired a strike to first for the out, showing no ill effects.  

Kluber looked like one of the favorites for the 2016 AL Cy Young Award—which is a nicer way of saying he looked like himself. The right-hander went seven scoreless innings, giving up just three hits and three walks with seven strikeouts and throwing 104 pitches. 

Sports Illustrated provided a GIF of what Boston hitters were experiencing as they tried to attack Kluber:

This start from Kluber was what the Indians needed after manager Terry Francona used Andrew Miller and Cody Allen for 40 pitches each in Game 1 to secure the victory on Thursday. 

Dan Otero and Bryan Shaw covered the final two innings to preserve the Game 2 shutout. 

Cleveland has Josh Tomlin on the hill in Game 3. He gave up 36 homers in 174 innings during the regular season, so going to Fenway Park could require Francona to turn to his relief corps early if the Indians are to put the series away.

While Kluber was busy putting up zeroes, Cleveland’s offense continued to use the long ball against Boston pitching. After the Indians hit three solo homers Thursday, Chisenhall capped off a four-run second inning against Red Sox starter David Price with a three-run laser that just cleared the wall in right field. 

It was a critical moment not just because it put the Red Sox in an early 4-0 hole against one of the best pitchers in the AL. Cleveland has been close to unbeatable this year when Kluber gets at least four runs of support, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian:

ESPN Stats & Info has the in-depth numbers to prove how hard and fast Chisenhall’s blast got out of Progressive Field:

Chisenhall, who is usually deployed against right-handed pitching, got the start against the left-handed Price. It should have been a big advantage for the Red Sox. 

Instead, Chisenhall hit his first homer of 2016 against a southpaw and left Boston searching for answers heading back home for Game 3.

Price’s postseason struggles continued Friday. He lasted just 3.1 innings, giving up five runs on six hits, two walks and three strikeouts. His playoff ERA coming into Friday was 5.12 in 63.1 innings, and he remains winless in nine postseason starts. 

Per ESPN Stats & Info, Price’s outing today also represented his shortest in the playoffs:

Going back to Rick Porcello’s start from Thursday night, MLB.com’s Ian Browne noted the Red Sox haven’t seen their two aces very long in the series:

Price and Porcello combined to throw 453 innings during the regular season with 417 strikeouts. Their struggles will force the Red Sox to turn to Clay Buchholz in Game 3 with their season on the line. 

This season was often a struggle for Buchholz, though he did look much better in the second half with a 3.22 ERA in 19 appearances. 

Just as puzzling for the Red Sox so far has been the lack of production from their lineup, with ESPN.com’s Scott Lauber providing some alarming numbers:

During the regular season, Boston’s offense led the league in virtually every major category, including runs (878), doubles (343), total bases (2,615), average (.282), on-base percentage (.348) and slugging percentage (.461). 

This is not the scenario the Red Sox wanted to find themselves in, though history is on their side. The last two times they have played the Indians in the playoffs came in the 1999 division series when Pedro Martinez’s Game 5 heroics capped off a third straight win after falling behind 2-0 and the 2007 ALCS when they came back from a 3-1 series deficit en route to their second World Series title in four seasons. 

The Indians did have a little help and motivation at Progressive Field, just in case a playoff game wasn’t enough, as Ohio’s favorite son provided a message to the team and fans in attendance before first pitch, per the team’s official Twitter account:

Whatever is happening in Cleveland right now seems to be working. Four months ago, the Cavaliers ended the city’s 52-year championship drought by pulling off a historic comeback against the Golden State Warriors. 

The Indians still have a long way to go if they want to make it two titles in 2016 for Cleveland, but the first two games of this division series against the high-powered Red Sox offense couldn’t have gone better for the Tribe. 


Postgame Reaction

After hitting his first career playoff home run, Chisenhall explained in part his approach against Price. 

“He’s difficult, but he’s around the zone. So you try to be aggressive,” Chisenhall said on the TBS broadcast, via Bastian and Browne. “Saved that big hit off a lefty for the postseason. The guys in front of me did a great job and we got him out of the game early.”

Even though Friday was another postseason letdown for Price, he did not sound like a beaten man after the game.

“I haven’t had good results yet but it’s coming,” Price said, via Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald. “I promise you that.”

Pedroia was much more reflective about things after his team fell behind 2-0 in the series while still giving credit to Cleveland for its performance thus far. 

“They’ve played better than us,” Pedroia said, via Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. “…We’ve lost who we are. We’ve lost the Red Sox.”

While the Red Sox will try to find their identity in Boston before Game 3, Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis talked about how the Indians are feeding off some national media members not giving them much of a chance, via Hayden Grove of Cleveland.com:

Continuing with his us-against-the-world theme, per Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com, Kipnis said “people forget there’s a reason we opened [the series] in Cleveland and not Boston. We have a pretty good team here.”

Looking at what the Indians have a chance to do with one more win, Kipnis noted he doesn’t expect the Indians to take their foot off the throttle in Game 3. 

“When you have a chance to knock out a team early, you don’t waste any time,” Kipnis said, via Meisel. “You do it. You don’t want to let them get their footing or let them feel at home. If you get a chance to end it, you end it.”

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ALDS Schedule 2016: TV Times, Live Stream for Friday’s Game 2 Matchups

The Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox are in fairly urgent situations. Both lost their American League Division Series openers and know that dropping a second straight game would not be good for their postseason aspirations.

The Rangers will try to even their series with the Toronto Blue Jays by sending Yu Darvish to the mound Friday afternoon (1:08 p.m. ET, TBS) against 20-game winner J.A. Happ.

Game 1 of the series was disastrous for the home team. The Blue Jays scored five runs in the top of the third inning and then rolled to a 10-1 victory over Texas ace Cole Hamels. The big bats of Jose Bautista (three-run home run) and Troy Tulowitizki (bases-loaded triple) were booming for the Blue Jays, while Texas could do very little with Marco Estrada.

The Toronto starter pitched 8.1 innings before manager John Gibbons pulled him after giving up four hits, striking out six and not walking a batter.

More than anything, the Texas offense will need to come alive. The Rangers were a resounding 53-28 at home this season, as players like Ian Desmond (22 HR, 86 RBI), Carlos Beltran (seven HR since being traded at the deadline by the New York Yankees), Adrian Beltre (32 HR and 104 RBI) and Rougned Odor (.502 slugging percentage, 33 HR) were able to come up with key hits on a regular basis.

Happ will not be easy for the Rangers to solve. He was 20-4 with a 3.18 ERA and a solid 1.169 WHIP, and he also was an impressive 9-2 on the road.

Darvish was 10-7 with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.261 WHIP in his 22 starts this year. The 30-year-old Japanese pitcher was 6-2 at home this year, but his ERA jumped to 4.26 at Globe Life Park.

The Red Sox are depending on David Price to even their series with the Indians after Game 1 starter Rick Porcello gave up three home runs in the third inning and Boston dropped a 5-4 decision.

Price comes into Game 2 of the series (4:38 p.m ET, TBS) with a 2-7 lifetime postseason record, which almost certainly means that there will be some uneasiness in the Red Sox dugout.

Price was somewhat inconsistent throughout the first half of the season but was much better after the All-Star break, going 8-3 with a 3.58 ERA.

Price told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he was unconcerned about his unimpressive postseason record:

I just want to help this team win.That’s the bottom line. That’s the mind-set I want to take out there on the fifth day. And that’s the mind-set I want my teammates to have. I want to be dominant. I want to have that really good postseason game and I know that I’m capable of doing that and I’m excited to pitch [Friday].

Price’s opponent will be Cleveland ace Corey Kluber, who was 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA and a sharp 1.056 WHIP.

The only issue for Kluber is that it has been nearly two weeks since he last pitched as a result of a quadriceps strain. Kluber said he is feeling good and told Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe that he is not worried about being rusty.

The Rangers and Red Sox are not in must-win positions just yet, but both teams need to pick it up considerably after coming up with less than their best efforts in the first games of their respective series.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

ALDS 2016: Keys for All 4 AL Teams to Win Game 2

Thursday’s Game 1s in the American League, which featured some of the most potent offenses in all of MLB, didn’t lack the firepower we’ve come to expect from the the teams that have been doing it all year. The Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians grabbed 1-0 series leads over the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox, respectively, with frightening combinations of quality pitching and overwhelming power at the plate. 

The series between Toronto and Texas is a rematch of the 2015 American League Division Series. A year ago, the Blue Jays dropped the first two games in the best-of-five series at home before heading to Texas. Toronto won both games on the road to force a decisive Game 5, which it would win at home.

The 2016 division series began differently for Toronto, which secured its date with the Rangers by sinking the Baltimore Orioles at home on Tuesday following a walk-off, three-run home run in the 11th inning from Edwin Encarnacion

Despite embarrassing the Rangers at their home park on Thursday by a score of 10-1, the Blue Jays know all too well that there is an arduous road ahead that leads to the American League Championship Series and continues at 1 p.m. ET on Friday. 

Neither the Red Sox nor the Indians were participants in the 2015 postseason—Cleveland won 81 games a year ago, while Boston claimed just 78 victories. Each team’s story was substantially different in 2016, with both teams winning more than 90 games. 

Cleveland edged out Boston by one game over the course of 162, and the Tribe took Thursday’s Game 1 at home 5-4. The two teams combined to jolt six solo home runs, but it was Jason Kipnis’ RBI single in the fifth inning that made the difference.

After one game, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this series go the full five games. However, Cleveland and Boston cannot look past Game 2 on Friday at 4:30 p.m ET. 

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ALDS Schedule 2016: TV Times, Live Stream for Thursday’s Game 1 Matchups

With the Wild Card Games now complete, the 2016 American League Division Series is set to begin Thursday, with the league’s final four teams vying for the AL pennant.

Each contest will have its own spotlight, as the Game 1 slate features an afternoon showdown followed by a nightcap. Regardless, Thursday should yield some spectacular baseball, as both sets of teams appear evenly matched.

Take a look at Thursday’s start times below, as well as the television and live-streaming schedules. The full 2016 MLB playoff schedule is available at MLB.com.

The most newsworthy AL series is between the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays. These two teams do not like each other after a hostile series last postseason, and the bad blood carried over into this past regular season with a brawl in May.

Both teams are downplaying the rocky relationship ahead of the series, but it remains to be seen if cool heads will prevail when the intensity ramps up at game time. Texas’ Rougned Odor, a key figure in the feud, said Wednesday that his team is just focused on the game, per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi: “That’s over already; we’re just trying to win this series and win how we play.”

Toronto’s Jose Bautista echoed this sentiment, per Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith:

In Game 1, Cole Hamels will get the start for the Rangers against Marco Estrada in a matchup that appears slightly uneven on the surface. Hamels turned in a stout season with a 15-5 record and a 3.32 ERA. On the other hand, Estrada struggled in the win department in 2016 with a 9-9 mark, but he did sport a solid 3.48 ERA.

Pitching in the National League for the majority of his career with the Philadelphia Phillies, Hamels does not have a ton of history against Toronto’s lineup, as he has yet to face Josh Donaldson in the majors. Furthermore, key Blue Jays such as Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki have fared well against Hamels in their careers, per ESPN.com:

On the other side, Estrada has a relatively favorable history against some of Texas’ top hitters:

Hamels has more playoff experience with 15 career starts for a 7-5 record and 3.03 ERA, but Estrada has been good under the bright lights, too. He is 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA in seven appearances. Regardless, Game 1 will be crucial, as each team will want to earn an early lead in a five-game series, and the numbers indicate that it could go in either squad’s favor.

In the other ALDS showdown, it figures to be an offensive battle between two teams with potent lineups.

The Boston Red Sox led the majors by a sizable margin in scoring with 878 runs and team batting average at .282. The Red Sox boast a slew of dangerous bats, including three studs in the middle of the lineup, as noted by MLB.com:  

Meanwhile the Cleveland Indians finished fifth with 777 runs and sixth with a .262 average. The Indians feature a deep order that may not overwhelm with power, but they possess four guys (Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez and Carlos Santana) who finished the regular season with an on-base percentage over .340.

Cleveland does have a slight pitching advantage, though, as the Indians sport a 3.84 team ERA compared to Boston’s 4.00 mark. The Indians also have a stellar bullpen led by Cody Allen, Andrew Miller and Danny Otero.

Rick Porcello will take the hill for Boston after posting a 22-win regular season, but he has not been as good in the postseason during his career. Porcello has a 4.41 ERA in only 16.1 innings pitched but is taking on Cleveland hurler Trevor Bauer, who has never started a playoff game. 

With that in mind, Thursday’s uncertain pitching factors could lead to a high-scoring affair in Game 1.


Statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

ALDS 2016: Blue Jays vs. Rangers Position-by-Position Breakdown, Predictions

The Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers are sure to keep things civil in a friendly American League Division Series rematch that won’t fester any animosity on either side.

Just kidding. Tensions are sure to brew in this bitter rivalry.

Last year, Toronto survived a memorable five-game ALDS over Texas in a bizarre, ugly Game 5 during which fans littered the field with trash after a controversial, yet accurately called play. Texas’ players, however, were more upset over Jose Bautista brashly discarding his bat after ending their season with a game-winning home run.

That animosity boiled into the 2016 season, when he slid past the second-base bag into Rougned Odor in May. The Rangers infielder retaliated by punching him in the jaw. Think both teams will remember that?

Let’s not get too bogged down in their bad blood. Lost in all the craziness, the Blue Jays and Rangers competed in an enthralling series last fall. While the Rangers won an AL-best 95 games in 2016, they did so with a mild plus-eight run differential. Sporting a plus-93 run margin, the 89-73 Blue Jays have a legitimate case for entering as favorites on the road.

Then again, Texas’ offense is rolling into Thursday’s Game 1 with help from some key midseason acquisitions. Let’s run down each position to see which squad has the edge.

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