Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

ALCS matches Jays and Indians, who had eventful regular-season meetings

RECOMMENDED READING


CLEVELAND — 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 Blue Jays and Indians, who will renew acquaintances when the AL Championship Series opens 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-to-back 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 strong 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 31/3 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 franchise-record, 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 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.

Comments
Rays INF Matt Duffy has to say big goodbye to 27-pound cat Skeeter

Rays INF Matt Duffy has to say big goodbye to 27-pound cat Skeeter

When the Rays acquired INF Matt Duffy from the Giants during the 2016 season, we also heard about the giant and somewhat famous cat he had, an up-to-27-pounder named Skeeter.Duffy announced over the weekend on Instagram that the family had to have Sk...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays agonize over which prospects to protect on 40-man roster

Rays agonize over which prospects to protect on 40-man roster

ST. PETERSBURG — That the Rays went right up to Monday’s 8 p.m. deadline in deciding to add seven players to the 40-man roster, and that a couple they left off seem to be potential Rule 5 draft losses, was apparently a good thing."There’s always some...
Updated: 5 hours ago
UPDATE: RHP Brent Honeywell among 7 added to Rays 40-man roster

UPDATE: RHP Brent Honeywell among 7 added to Rays 40-man roster

UPDATE, 8:11: RHP Jose Mujica was an additional addition to the roster, beyond the six previously reported. Mujica, 21, was 14-8, 3.04 ERA in 27 starts between Class-A Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery.So among those left unprotected and potentially ...
Published: 11/20/17
Former Devil Ray Aubrey Huff among newcomers to Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

Former Devil Ray Aubrey Huff among newcomers to Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

Aubrey Huff isn't going to make the Baseball Hall of Fame.But at least the former Devil Rays standout has the satisfaction of making the cut to get onto the ballot, one of 19 first-timers up for election this year.Other newcomers with Rays ties are O...
Published: 11/20/17
Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

After collecting intelligence at last week’s GM meetings, the Rays soon will launch their offseason mission of trading at least a couple of veterans to reduce payroll.The question is how far they will go — how many players they deal, and how big of n...
Published: 11/18/17
Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

The Rays completed the reorganization of their coaching staff by giving Rocco Baldelli the title of major league field coordinator.In being promoted from first-base coach, Baldelli will implement ideas and information from the staff, while assisting ...
Published: 11/17/17
Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays were banking on pitcher Alex Cobb declining their one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer based on the lure of a longer-term and more lucrative deal elsewhere as a free agent.With that decision official Thursday, now the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

LAKE BUENA VISTA — MLB commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t want to talk Thursday about what might happen if the current effort to build the Rays a new stadium at the Ybor City site falls through."I’m more focused on working with the community to figure o...
Published: 11/16/17
A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

Here is a message from RHP Alex Cobb after he officially left the Rays Thursday in declining their one-year, $17.4-milllion qualifying offer to seek a bigger and longer pact elsewhere:"Getting to this point in my career is truly bittersweet."Twelve y...
Published: 11/16/17
UPDATE: Rays to gain draft pick for loss of free agent pitcher Alex Cobb

UPDATE: Rays to gain draft pick for loss of free agent pitcher Alex Cobb

UPDATE, 5:01: Cobb did not accept the offer by the deadline, as expected.DEVELOPING: Sometime before today's 5 p.m. deadline, the Rays will get official word that their $17.4-million slight gamble on Alex Cobb paid off.The Rays made the free-agent ri...
Published: 11/16/17