CLEVELAND -- Marco Estrada tries to treat each postseason start just like the one that came before it. If that holds true in the American League Championship Series opener, the Blue Jays hurler would delight in quieting what promises to be a raucous atmosphere at Progressive Field.Having carried a shutout
CLEVELAND -- Marco Estrada tries to treat each postseason start just like the one that came before it. If that holds true in the American League Championship Series opener, the Blue Jays hurler would delight in quieting what promises to be a raucous atmosphere at Progressive Field.
Having carried a shutout into the ninth inning of Toronto's win in Texas in the AL Division Series opener, Estrada will again embrace his standing as the Jays' postseason ace as he matches up against the Indians' Corey Kluber on Friday (8 p.m. ET on TBS in the U.S., Sportsnet and RDS in Canada).
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"It seems like every time I have pitched in the playoffs, it's been on the road," Estrada said. "I think we kind of thrive on that, having our back against the wall, having the hostility -- not having our fans behind us, where [when] we get a hit or something, they boo us. I think we kind of enjoy that sort of stuff."
Wielding high-80s velocity, pinpoint command and a Bugs Bunny changeup, Estrada has proven that he doesn't require home cooking to succeed. In four postseason starts (three on the road) for the Blue Jays, Estrada has compiled a 1.95 ERA. Toronto manager John Gibbons called Estrada "the logical choice" to start the ALCS opener after he mystified the Rangers' lineup in Game 1 of the ALDS.
"We could have gone with anybody and felt good, but he has been so good in that role," Gibbons said.
A four-day layoff between the ALDS and the ALCS also factored into Gibbons' thinking. While it is unavoidable to have Estrada working on seven days' rest, the Blue Jays would like to disrupt his routine as little as possible; on normal rest, Estrada posted a 2.52 ERA, but that number jumped to 3.95 on five days' rest and 5.14 on six or more.
"It won't have any effect on me," Estrada said. "The only difference was maybe pushing back your bullpen day. … So this doesn't really change anything for me. I was able to work out an extra day, but other than that, it's the same."
The 33-year-old Estrada faced the Indians once this season, allowing three runs on five hits over five innings in a July 2 effort. It was the last start Estrada made before going on the disabled list with back soreness, and though he has been pitching with a herniated disk all season, the injury has not seemed to be an issue of late.
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"It's just like any other team; every team is good," Estrada said of the Indians. "Some are a little better, but you can't take anybody lightly. They've got an extremely talented team over there, but so do we."
That confidence carries weight with the Blue Jays, who have learned that they can count on Estrada in big spots. Last year, Toronto was facing elimination in Game 3 of the ALDS against Texas, but he helped the club survive by pitching into the seventh and permitting just one run.
In the ALCS, Estrada once again delivered in a potential elimination game by giving up one run over 7 2/3 innings in Game 5 against the Royals. Estrada credits keeping an even-keeled attitude for helping him deliver when it counts the most.
"It feels like another game, because that's what it is," Estrada said. "Obviously, it's the playoffs, and I understand it's a big deal, but I treat every game just like the one before. I don't put extra pressure on myself, and it's something I've been saying since last year: Why think about it any other way than just another normal start?"
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com.