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Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays vs Cleveland Indians (Jun 30- Jul 3)

The Toronto Blue Jays welcome the hottest team in baseball to the Rogers Centre for a four game series over the Canada Day long weekend.

The Cleveland Indians (47-30) roll into the Rogers Centre this Canada Day weekend having won 12 games in a row. Their longest such winning streak as a franchise since 1951 has helped them stretch their American League Central lead to 6.0 games. With them they also bring a well-rounded, high scoring offense that is currently 4th in the American League in runs/game, and perhaps the best pitching staff in baseball.

The Blue Jays (43-37) winners of 3 of their last 5, now sit 5.5 games back of the first place Orioles in the American League East, and are steadily inching their way back up the top of AL offensive categories. The pitching staff which currently sits 6th in the AL for RA/G, has been showing some leaks of late, but will soon be bolstered with the return of some key bullpen arms. Likely, they will not be back in time for this series, so it will be all hands on deck with the current stable of arms.

Pitching staffs:

CLE- (Starters) 3.59 ERA, 1.144 WHIP, 1.13 HR/9, 8.1 K/9, .233/.286/.389

TOR – (Starters) 3.86 ERA, 1.244 WHIP, 1.13 HR/9, 7.1 K/9, .240/.305/.404

CLE – (Relievers) 3.30 ERA, 1.244 WHIP, 1.04 HR/9, 8.9 K/9, .231/.305/.385

TOR – (Relievers) 4.31 ERA, 1.345 WHIP, 1.26 HR/9, 9.1 K/9, .264/.325/.429

Offenses:

Cleveland – R/G 4.90 – .260/.324/.434 – 245 XBH – 7.92 K/G

Toronto – R/G 4.78 – .247/.327/.437 – 268 XBH – 8.08 K/G

History: Toronto and Cleveland have a long history playing each other with 399 total games. Toronto holds all-time series record at 200-197, with a 106-92 record at home in Toronto. The Blue Jays have the edge over the past last 3 seasons with a 10-9 record, including 4-3 in 2015.

Game 1

First Pitch – 7:07 EST

R. Dickey RHP (2016: 5-8, 4.23 ERA) vs. C. Carrasco RHP (2016: 3-2, 2.73 ERA)

The Blue Jays will kick off the 4 games series by giving R.A. Dickey the ball at the Rogers Centre. Dickey has been his solid self over the past month and a half, as his record (5-8, 4.23 ERA, 1.328 WHIP, 6.2 K/9) can attest.

Over his career Dickey is has a (4-2, 3.14 ERA, 1.221 WHIP, 8.0 K/9) when facing the Indians, this also includes being 2-2 as a Blue Jay.

The knuckleballer has a disappointing (0-5, 5.36 ERA, 1.381 WHIP, 6.2 K/9) record at home this season.

Dickey CLE

The Indians will counter with Carlos Carrasco. Carrasco is only 9 starts into his season and is putting together another respectable (3-2, 2.73 ERA, 1.107 WHIP, 7.9 K/9) record.

Over his career the RHP is (1-1 8.62 ERA, 1.915 WHIP, 9.2 K/9) against Toronto, though his last appearance came in 2014 when he was tagged for 3H, 2ER, over a single inning.

The Venezuelan native is a very respectable (2-2, 1.95 ERA, 0.866 WHIP, 8.6 K/9) on the road in 2016.

Carrasco TOR

Game 2

First Pitch – 1:07 EST

M. Stroman RHP (2016: 6-4, 5.33 ERA) vs. J. Tomlin RHP (2016: 9-1, 3.32 ERA)

Toronto will run out the struggling Marcus Stroman in game two on Canada Day. Stroman (6-4, 5.33 ERA, 1.421 WHIP, 6.3 K/9) this season has seen his numbers climb in the wrong direction over his last 8 starts, and will need a good starts against a very good team to get the ball rolling in the right direction.

The Duke graduate has only 1.1 IP against the Indians from 2014, it didn’t go when then. (5H, 4ER)

Stroman is (2-1, 5.90 ERA, 1.490 WHIP, 6.1 K/9) at home in the Rogers Centre this season.

Stroman CLE

Cleveland will counter with Josh Tomlin who is in the midst of his best start in his career. Tomlin’s (9-1, 3.32 ERA, 1.063 WHIP, 5.6 K/9) record is impressive, however, he his still prone to the long ball as his 1.8 HR/9 shows.

The RHP has faced the Blue Jays and pitched in Toronto in the past (1-0, 5.19 ERA, 1.327 WHIP, 7.3 K/9) but hasn’t done so since 2011.

Tomlin is (5-0, 2.76 ERA, 0.959 WHIP, 5.5 K/9) away from Progressive Field this season.

Tomlin TOR

Game 3

First Pitch – 1:07 EST

M. Estrada RHP (2016: 5-3, 2.81 ERA) vs. T. Bauer RHP (2016: 6-2, 3.19 ERA)

Saturday’s game will see Toronto’s steadiest pitcher this season, Marco Estrada, take the mound. Estrada (5-3, 2.81 ERA, 0.987 WHIP, 8.3 K/9) will be looking to extend his MLB record of 6 or more IP with 5H or less to an astounding 13 straight games.

The RHP has faced the Indians in his career. It was a start from 2015 where he put up a strong 7 IP, 5H, 2ER performance. Another one of those will extend the record.

The California native is a very respectable (2-2, 2.12 ERA, 0.879 WHIP, 8.9 K/9) at home this season.

Estrada CLE

Cleveland’s starter on Saturday will be the enigma named Trevor Bauer. Bauer has made 12 starts this season (6-2, 3.19 ERA, 1.173 WHIP, 8.4 K/9) after being assigned to bullpen duty to begin the season. The RHP has excelled in his role this time around posting a (5-2, 2.96 ERA) in his starts.

The former UCLA Bruin has face Toronto twice with disastrous results (0-1, 17.47 ERA, 3.000 WHIP, 4.8 K/9) with one of those starts coming at Rogers Centre (1.1 IP, 6H, 5ER) in 2015.

Bauer is an impressive (4-1, 2.86 ERA, 1.227 WHIP, 7.8 K/9) on the road for the Indians this season.

Bauer TOR

Game 4

First Pitch – 1:07 EST

J. Happ RHP (2016: 10-3, 3.70 ERA) vs. C. Kluber RHP (2016: 8-7, 3.50 ERA)

The last game of the series will see Toronto’s resident lefty J.A. Happ take the mound. Happ (10-3, 3.70 ERA, 1.234 WHIP, 6.2 K/9) has struggled of late (5.28 ERA last 5 starts) but has been the beneficiary of the some excellent run support.

Over his career the former Northwestern University Wildcat has some experience in facing the Indians, and has done well in the past (2-1, 3.38 ERA, 1.453 WHIP, 5.9 K/9)

Happ is a steady (5-1, 4.50 ERA, 1.425 WHIP, 6.3 K/9) at home in Toronto this season.

Happ CLE

The Indians will counter on Sunday with 2014’s Cy Young award winner, Corey Kluber. Kluber is putting together another solid season (8-7, 3.50 ERA, 0.976 WHIP, 8.9 K/9) in 2016.

The former Stetson University pitcher is (1-2, 4.82 ERA, 1.446 WHIP, 7.2 K/9) over his career when facing the Blue Jays, but does have one excellent start at Rogers Centre of 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 9 K from 2014.

Kluber’s road record in 2016 (5-3, 3.36 ERA, 0.859 WHIP, 9.0 K/9) is much like his season’s record, consistent.

Kluber TOR

Player(s) to Watch:

Blue JaysToronto has a trio of players who have hit the cover off the ball over the past month.

Josh Donaldson – 25G,  374/496/692, 5 HR, 23 RBI; 2016 season totals 293/401/571, 18 HR, 52 RBI

Edwin Encarnacion – 25G, 318/455/761, 11 HR, 30 RBI; 2016 season totals 264/359/541, 21 HR, 70 RBI

Devon Travis – 15G, 410/438/705, 4 HR, 14 RBI; 2016 season totals 284/317/483, 5 HR, 19 RBI

The troublesome spot in the lineup, which may have gone unnoticed by some, belongs to left-fielder Michael Saunders. He has hit great this season which his (293/369/460, 20 2B, 15 HR, 34 RBI) numbers show. Though is last 2 weeks have been pretty poor. In his last 15 games the Canadian is hitting a meager 220/298/520 4 HR, 11 RBI, but it gets worse if you last the last 10 games where his slash line is a paltry 167/244/250 0 HR, 2 RBI.

IndiansWith Cleveland being on a 12 games winning streak, it only makes sense they would have players in the lineup that have helped light up the scoreboard.

Francisco Lindor: 12G, 333/392/578, 3 HR, 6 RBI; 2016 season totals 308/367/467, 10 HR, 39 RBI

Carlos Santana: 12G, 295/354/545, 3 HR, 9 RBI; 2016 season totals 237/336/459, 16 HR, 42 RBI

Lonnie Chisenhall; 12G, 359/390/718, 3 HR, 10 RBI; 2016 season totals 297/354/480, 5 HR, 22 RBI

One player in particular is an old nemesis of the Blue Jays, and that man is Mike Napoli. The 1B/DH is having himself a decent season power-wise which his (219/313/463, 16 HR, 52 RBI) slash line shows. During their last 12 games he has contributed with a 275/362/423, 2 HR, 7 RBI, and is a bat the Toronto pitching staff will have to pay attention to despite his low average and on-base percentage.

 

SERIES OUTLOOK:

If the Toronto Blue Jays want to come out on the right side of this 4 game series, the one thing they will have to do is pitch better. With Cleveland having what many consider the best overall pitching staff in the American League this season {3.45 ERA (1st), 3.71 RA/G (1st), 1.172 WHIP (1st), and 3.09 SO/W (3rd)} it will be up to Toronto’s staff to match them inning for inning. Toronto’s offense is good enough to scratch together some to give them more than a fighting chance to win this series; however, it will for not if they can’t keep the Indians’ offensive attack to a minimum.

*All Pitcher vs Batter Stats provided by ESPN (click on image to see original)
**Featured Image Credit: udo.d – UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0

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Wade is a long time baseball fan who has been involved with the game for over 30 years. Including as a former college player, amateur pitching coach, and blogger.

W Black

Wade is a long time baseball fan who has been involved with the game for over 30 years. Including as a former college player, amateur pitching coach, and blogger.