Blue Jays expect tight, tough set with Indians

Clubs boast talented hitters, impressive pitching staffs

October 12th, 2016

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays didn't have to wait long to find out their opponent in the American League Championship Series. A day after Toronto swept the Rangers in three games, the Indians punched their ticket to the next round with a sweep of the Red Sox.

While the organizations share many interesting subplots -- including front-office executives such as Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins returning to Cleveland, and Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter, who played prominent roles in both uniforms -- the clubs also showed healthy competitive spirit during the season, with the Indians taking four out of seven games against Toronto.

:: ALCS: Blue Jays vs. Indians coverage ::

Several Blue Jays provided their analysis and reaction to the matchup Tuesday, including reigning AL MVP Award winner , who believes the best-of-seven set will provide high-stakes October drama. Game 1 is Friday at Progressive Field in Cleveland (8 p.m. ET on TBS and, in Canada, Sportsnet and RDS).

"I'm looking forward to a good series," Donaldson said prior to Toronto's team workout. "They have a quality team and we feel like we have a quality team as well. They have really good pitching, they're solid one through nine, they play good defense, and they have a really good bullpen.

"They're a good team. We're going to have a tough task at hand, but I feel like we have a team that can do that."

The Indians finished 94-67 to win the AL Central, while the Blue Jays went 89-73 to take the top AL Wild Card spot on the final day of the regular season. Both clubs have surged into the postseason and are well-rounded in every facet, including the offensive end, where Cleveland finished second in the AL with 777 runs, 18 more than fifth-place Toronto.

"Cleveland's really got a tremendous team," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Their offense has a bunch of switch-hitters, they have good team speed and it's really a very good offense; one of the best out there. That's not easy. We played them a handful of times and had some pretty good games, including the 19-inning game on Canada Day. I think they've all been good games. They're real athletic and young."

Another area where both teams have flourished is on the pitching side. The Blue Jays finished with a 3.78 ERA -- tops in the AL -- with the Indians not far behind at 3.84. Toronto will likely see plenty of lefty reliever , who came over from the Yankees in a midseason trade, and Blue Jays outfielder said the familiarity could help Toronto.

"From what I've seen in the postseason, he's been awesome," Pillar said of Miller. "He's been a nice bridge between their starter and the back end of the bullpen. His ability to throw multiple innings is definitely a challenge. He's a guy that we're somewhat familiar with since he spent the past little bit in New York. It's not anything new. He hasn't reinvented himself. He's special, he's talented, but he's a guy that everyone on this team has faced and we know what to expect from him."

Six of the seven games in the season series were decided by three runs or fewer, including the epic 19-inning game on Canada Day at Rogers Centre which Cleveland took, 2-1, after took infielder-turned-pitcher over the wall for a solo home run. Toronto second baseman doesn't expect any infielders to pitch in the ALCS, but he does expect an exciting series nonetheless.

"It's going to be a crazy series," Travis said. "They can do it all, really. They can hit, play good defense, they have great starting pitching and a great back end of the bullpen. It's going to be a fun series, and this is why we play the games."