The Toronto Blue Jays are entering a critical late-August stretch of four series that culminates with the Baltimore Orioles. Their first and most challenging step is a three-game series with the Cleveland Indians beginning Friday night at Progressive Field.
In the American League East, the Blue Jays now sit one and a half games clear of the Orioles and Red Sox for first place. Cleveland has a little more breathing room in the A.L. Central with a full six games between themselves and the Detroit Tigers.
These are not the Cleveland Indians that many have grown accustomed to. The club’s early dominance allowed Cleveland to make a splash at the deadline, acquiring New York Yankees closer Andrew Miller in exchange for a prospect package headlined by Clint Frazier. The Indians also had a deal in place for Milwaukee Brewers’ star catcher Jonathan Lucroy, but Lucroy exercised his no-trade clause to block the deal.
Toronto will follow this series with sets against the Angels and Twins, so capitalizing against Cleveland should position the Blue Jays very well for the division battle in September.
Numbers to Know:
Cleveland’s pitching gets a lot of attention, but their bats have been among the league’s best. With 605 runs, they’ve outscored the Blue Jays (586) and sit fourth in baseball.
The Indians are more of a doubles team than a home run team, but their 154 deep flies still rank them 10th.
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Cleveland is batting a cumulative .267, the fourth-best team average in Major League Baseball. Their .329 on-base percentage ranks sixth, so Toronto’s pitchers are facing a challenging weekend.
Cleveland’s pitching staff has performed on a level very close to Toronto’s. Their team ERA of 3.84 ranks them seventh in the MLB, just behind Toronto at 3.74.
It’s a dead heat when it comes to batting average against. Opponents have hit .241 against both the Blue Jays and Indians.
Cleveland Names to Know:
- Blue Jays fans should value this opportunity to see Francisco Lindor, one of the game’s brightest young players. The 22-year-old shortstop is hitting .311 and flashing his power with 14 home runs. He also plays some brilliant defence, so shortstop will be a position to watch in this series.
- Mike Napoli leads the home run charge with 29 to go along with 85 RBI. He’s also a fan of the strikeout, however, with 153. Toronto pitchers will need to walk a fine line with Napoli.
- Carlos Santana isn’t far behind with 26 home runs and has produced a .340 on-base percentage this season.
- Second-baseman Jason Kipnis is the third member of Cleveland’s 20-homer club, hitting .293.
- Watch out for former Blue Jays outfielder Rajai Davis on the bases. He isn’t slowing down at 35, and has 33 stolen bases already.