The 2016 American League Championship Series will begin tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. The AL Wild Card-winning Toronto Blue Jays will travel to Progressive Field to take on the Cleveland Indians in a battle for the pennant. Both teams swept through their AL Division Series matchups, with the Blue Jays taking down the Texas Rangers and the Indians beating the Boston Red Sox. With the four-man rotations already announced and set, these two teams will battle it out in the best-of-seven series to play for a World Series title.
The Blue Jays rotation kicks off with Marco Estrada taking the ball in Game 1, followed by J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman, and Aaron Sanchez. Happ has been the Jays’ most reliable pitcher this season, going 20-4 with a 3.16 ERA. His 20 wins were the second-most in baseball, and he was one of just three guys to win 20 games in 2016, joining Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer.
The Indians will counter with former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber getting the start in Game 1, followed by Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, and Mike Clevinger. Clevinger is the tentative Game 4 starter, depending on his usage out of the bullpen in the first games of the series. Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar are not on the postseason roster due to injuries they received late in September.
The Jays are known for their monster power bats, with the likes of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson, and Troy Tulowitzki all having the ability to hit the ball out of the park on any given count at any given time. Their use of the long ball has been something that they have used to their advantage and what they have built their offense around throughout the season. Encarnacion had a team-high 42 home runs and 127 RBI, while Donaldson hit 37 long balls and drove in 99 runs, both second-best on the team.
While the Indians offense is different, they do have the ability to hit the ball out of the yard. Five of their everyday starters — Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Tyler Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Jason Kipnis — hit above .275 this year, while Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana slugged 34 home runs apiece. With two totally different styles of offense in the ALCS, the Jays slugging the ball and the Indians contact and getting on base, it sets up some interesting baseball ahead.
This is a series that truly showcases the best the American League has to offer. Both of these teams have had incredible seasons, and no one predicted this matchup at the beginning of the season. The Blue Jays have now reached their second ALCS in as many years, and the Indians have the power of the Cavaliers and Cleveland behind them. After a rough couple of years, the Indians finally have it clicking on all cylinders and seeing that young talent finally start to step up and play well. The Jays, on the other hand, have a bunch of established veterans living up to the hype and playing at the levels they have been in the past. Two truly different teams looking for the same common goal: to advance and reach the World Series. This is going to be a fun series to watch.