TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have experienced a little bit of everything over the past week, and the ride is far from over. But before the next stage begins, they intend to take a well-deserved break.
Toronto capped a chaotic nine-day run on Sunday night by eliminating Texas with a 7-6 walk-off victory in 10 innings in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. It was the latest drama in a rather stressful stretch that saw the Blue Jays clinch a postseason berth on the final day of the regular season and then send the Orioles packing two days later with Edwin Encarnacion's dramatic walk-off three-run homer in the 11th inning of the AL Wild Card Game.
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For those keeping track at home, that's three goggle-wearing clubhouse celebrations over the span of eight days. The roller-coaster ride isn't done, but before the Blue Jays get set to face the Indians in the ALCS, they will get a few days off. And with a banged-up roster, that could be exactly what this team needs.
Game 1 of the ALCS will be Friday at 8 p.m. ET at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The ALCS will be broadcast on TBS, as well as Sportsnet and RDS (in French) in Canada.
"We're an older team and we play hard. We play on turf," Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar said while outlining the benefits of rest. "This is like getting a little All-Star break for us. I'm sure everyone is going to be in here tomorrow to do what they need to do to get their body right. We're looking forward to whoever we've got next. We're just getting started."
The Blue Jays faced the Indians seven times, losing the season series, 4-3, but these clubs know each other well, too. Mark Shapiro had been with the Tribe since 1991 prior to joining Toronto as the team president last October. Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins had worked for the Indians since 2001 before joining Shapiro in Toronto last November.
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Shapiro admitted after Sunday night's victory over the Rangers that he was rooting for Cleveland to make it to the next round, but he was not the only one. Toronto is looking forward to the rest, but too much rest can be a bad thing, and that plays a factor in some Blue Jays' rooting interest.
"Hopefully the Indians win tomorrow and they have the same break, because I think that's one of the things that gave us a little bit of an edge over Texas," right fielder José Bautista said. "We played meaningful games down the stretch, and they were just kind of sitting back and enjoying the end of the season after clinching early."
The players who will greatly appreciate the extra rest include the long list of the walking wounded. Second baseman Devon Travis is dealing with a bone bruise in his right knee. Josh Donaldson has been bothered by a right hip injury for more than a month. Right-hander Joaquin Benoit hasn't pitched since the end of September because of a torn left calf muscle.
Then there's a tired and overworked bullpen. Closer Roberto Osuna was pushed to the brink down the stretch and experienced some shoulder fatigue during the AL Wild Card Game, and he's coming off working two innings in Game 3 and 1 2/3 innings in Game 2 on Friday afternoon. Setup man Jason Grilli is 39 years old and his arm likely could use a break as well.
"It's important," Donaldson said when asked about the rest. "We were kind of talking about that on the plane ride. The better, or earlier, we were able to win this series -- not saying that we were looking past Texas -- but we said, 'Hey, man, if we were able to get a shorter series right here, it would give us a little bit of time for some of the guys on our team to heal up a little bit.'"