In­di­ans, Jays meet in ALCS af­ter ‘quirky’ games dur­ing sea­son

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Tom Withers

There wasn’t a bench-clear­ing brawl.

That is about the only thing that didn’t hap­pen dur­ing seven tense, the­atric and highly en­ter­tain­ing reg­u­lar-sea­son games be­tween the Toronto Blue Jays and In­di­ans, who will re­new ac­quain­tances when the AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries opens on Fri­day night at Pro­gres­sive Field.

If Oc­to­ber’s drama is any­thing close to what it was like be­tween the clubs in July and Au­gust, buckle up.

Their pre­vi­ous matchups in­cluded a 19-in­ning marathon on July 1 in Toronto and a walk-off In­di­ans win on Aug. 19 on back-to­back homers in the ninth in­ning, the sec­ond an in­side-the-park shot that turned rookie Tyler Naquin into a lo­cal leg­end.

“I was watch­ing on TV,” said Blue Jays slug­ger Jose Bautista, who was re­hab­bing a sprained left knee in Florida and missed Toronto’s se­ries in Cleve­land. “There were some games that were ob­vi­ously close that had some quirky plays in them.”

The In­di­ans, who swept Bos­ton in the AL Di­vi­sion Se­ries af­ter a sea­son filled with in­juries, start Corey Klu­ber in Game 1 against Toronto’s Marco Estrada.

Klu­ber was mag­nif­i­cent in his post­sea­son de­but, hold­ing the Red Sox to three hits in seven shutout in­nings in Game 2 of the ALDS. The right-han­der, who in­jured a quadri­ceps late in the sea­son, will have to be on his game against the Blue Jays, who hit eight home runs in their sweep of Texas and fea­ture a lineup with dan­ger from top to bot­tom.

“They’re a solid lineup, one through nine,” said Klu­ber, tagged for five runs and seven hits in 3 1/3 in­nings against Toronto on July 3. “It’s not just two, three, four guys that can hurt you. Ev­ery­body in that lineup can hurt you. They have a lot of power, but they’re also pa­tient. You have to go out there and ex­e­cute pitches. There’s not re­ally a magic for­mula. Just like what we asked about with Bos­ton, it’s not a magic for­mula, they’re just a re­ally good of­fense. We all have our work cut out for us.”

That was the case on Canada Day, when the In­di­ans and Blue Jays slugged it out in Rogers Cen­tre for more than six hours be­fore Cleve­land es­caped with a 2-1 win.

In­di­ans man­ager Terry Fran­cona, whose bullpen touch was on dis­play against the Red Sox, brought in starter Trevor Bauer, who was sched­uled to pitch the fol­low­ing day, and the rub­ber-armed right-han­der re­sponded with five shutout in­nings.

The vic­tory capped a fran­chis­ere­cord, 14-game win­ning streak for the In­di­ans, and al­though it may have sapped them phys­i­cally, the win had a pos­i­tive ef­fect.

“Any­time you’re in a game like that, you al­ways want to win a game from the first in­ning,” said closer Cody Allen. “But when you’re play­ing ex­tra ball, you’re like, ‘Let’s fig­ure out a way to win.’ And when we did it was like, ‘Man, if we can fig­ure out a way to win that game, we can win any game.”

Blue Jays short­stop Troy Tu­low­itzki said the game was a test of en­durance.

“I felt like I was out there at short­stop for­ever,” he said. “We were us­ing po­si­tion play­ers to pitch. That game stands out be­cause it shows how evenly matched we are. Ev­ery game was close. They walked us off and you re­mem­ber that be­cause you’re walk­ing into the dugout say­ing, ‘Man, we had that one.’ And you hear the In­di­ans peo­ple say­ing they’ve been do­ing that all year, so there’s a lot of story lines for this se­ries. It’s the two best teams to me.”

The Blue Jays have been in play­off mode for weeks. They bat­tled their way to a wild-card berth and beat Bal­ti­more in the one-game play­off, rid­ing a sonic wave from their ram­bunc­tious home crowd and three-run homer from Ed­win En­car­na­cion into a matchup with the Rangers, the team they traded punches with ear­lier in the sea­son and knocked out with a flurry of long balls to ad­vance to the ALCS.

Now, they’ll square off with the In­di­ans, a team that may lack mar­quee names but not con­fi­dence.

“They have their strengths and weak­nesses,” Bautista said. “And so do we. As long as ev­ery­body ex­e­cutes and ex­cels at what they’re good at, it’s go­ing to be a tough se­ries for ei­ther op­po­nent to come out on top. We’ll see what hap­pens. They’re a speed-and-base-hit club and we’re a walk-and-home-run club. It’s go­ing to be a pretty good se­ries, I be­lieve.”

If the first seven games were any in­di­ca­tion, be­lieve.

LIRI­ANO SET: Blue Jays re­liever Fran­cisco Liri­ano has re­cov­ered from the con­cus­sion he re­ceived when he was struck on the back of the head by a come­backer in the ALDS.

He’s ex­pected to be cleared from the con­cus­sion pro­to­col on Fri­day in time for Game 1.

“He’s got a chance to be a valu­able guy to us if he’s healthy,” man­ager John Gib­bons said.

PRIZE POS­SES­SION: Sev­eral of the In­di­ans play­ers posed in the club­house for pic­tures with the Larry O’Brien Tro­phy, won by the NBA’s Cleve­land Cava­liers in June. The cham­pi­onship was the first for a Cleve­land team since 1964 and the In­di­ans are try­ing to end a World Se­ries drought dat­ing to 1948.

NATHAN DENETTE — THE CANA­DIAN PRESS VIA AP

Toronto Blue Jays third base­man Josh Don­ald­son laughs as he talks with a reporter dur­ing bat­ting prac­tice Thurs­day in Cleve­land. The Blue Jays are sched­uled to face the Cleve­land In­di­ans in Game 1 of base­ball’s Amer­i­can League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries on Fri­day.

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