The good news for Toronto Blue Jays fans heading into Tuesday afternoon’s Game 4 of the ALCS against the Cleveland Indians is that teams in the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball have all rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. That bad news is that it’s nearly impossible in MLB as only the 2004 Boston Red Sox have done it, coming against the New York Yankees in 2004. It’s a matchup of All-Star right-handers Tuesday, and Toronto is a slight opening favourite on Sports Interaction MLB odds to extend its season.
Cleveland Indians vs. Toronto Blue Jays, Game 4
MLB Odds: Blue Jays -125, Indians +115 Total: 8 Date: Tuesday, Oct. 18, 4 p.m. ET Location: Rogers Centre, Toronto
The Cleveland bullpen has been stellar all postseason and was again in Monday’s 4-2 victory as starting pitcher Trevor Bauer had to leave after two-thirds of an inning because the laceration on the pinky finger of his pitching hand ripped open and led to a rather gruesome scene. Pitchers aren’t allowed to work with a foreign substance, including a bandage. The Tribe bullpen, six guys in all, allowed two runs and seven hits over 8.1 innings. That could work to Toronto’s advantage, however, if it can knock out Cleveland ace Corey Kluber early Tuesday.
Indians manager Terry Francona originally had scheduled rookie Mike Clevinger to start Tuesday, but after pulling Bauer said on the telecast Monday that he was opting to bring back Kluber, who is the most likely Cleveland starter to go deep in the game, on three days of rest. The 2014 AL Cy Young winner and 2016 candidate was among the league leaders in nearly every major pitching category during the regular season. Kluber followed up seven shutout innings in Game 2 of the ALDS vs. Boston with 6.1 shutout innings of the Blue Jays in Game 1 of the ACLS, allowing six hits and striking out six with two walks.
This will be the first postseason start this year on the road for Kluber, and he will pitch on short rest for the first time in his big-league career. Since the MLB playoffs expanded with the first wild card in 1995, starters on short rest are 35-40 and a 4.35 ERA in 121 playoff games.
Kluber was 8-4 with a 3.03 ERA in 16 road starts this regular season. One of his worst was July 3 at Rogers Centre where he allowed five runs and seven hits in 3.1 innings in an Indians 17-1 loss. Russell Martin hit a first-inning three-run homer off Kluber.
Teams to take a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series are 34-1 all-time.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays look to 24-year-old Aaron Sanchez to save their season. He was 15-2 with an AL-best 3.00 ERA in the regular season, but the team had to manage his innings carefully or Sanchez likely would have started earlier in the ALCS. He faced the Indians on Aug. 20 in Cleveland and lasted only four innings, his second-shortest start of the season, with five runs (four earned) and four hits allowed in an eventual 6-5 Blue Jays win. Lonnie Chisenhall hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game at 5. Sanchez was 6-1 with a 3.74 ERA in 13 home starts during the year. He will be on eight days of rest.
Sanchez made the first postseason start of his career — on six days of rest — in the clinching Game 3 of the ALDS against Texas and wasn’t sharp in allowing six runs and walking four with five strikeouts over 5.2 innings of a no-decision. Sanchez said he was a bit too amped up and that cost him his control. Elvis Andrus homered in the third inning off him and Rougned Odor in the fourth. Sanchez did not start in the postseason last year, but he pitched in relief in nine games, giving up no earned runs in 7.1 innings.
If the Blue Jays’ bats don’t wake up, it likely won’t matter what Sanchez does on the mound. Toronto is hitting just .177 in the ALCS with 34 strikeouts.
Indians vs. Blue Jays ALCS Game 4 Prediction
Toronto has never been swept in a playoff series. All hands will be on deck out of the bullpen, other than Marcus Stroman, if Sanchez gets into any trouble. The Blue Jays force a Game 5. Go under the total.