TORONTO (AP) — After wrapping up their Division Series sweep of the Texas Rangers on Sunday night, the Toronto Blue Jays were able to kick back Monday, celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving and watch the Cleveland Indians beat Boston, finalizing their AL Championship Series matchup.
Back at Rogers Centre for a light workout on Tuesday afternoon, Toronto tabbed right-hander Marco Estrada as its starter for Friday’s Game 1 in Cleveland.
Manager John Gibbons said Estrada was “the logical choice” to start the opener after winning elimination games for the Blue Jays in both the ALDS and ALCS in 2015.
More recently, Estrada allowed one run and four hits in 8 1-3 innings to beat Texas in Game 1 of the ALDS last Thursday.
“He pitched two of our biggest games in the playoffs (last year) to keep us alive,” Gibbons said, “and then he had the big one the other night. He’s one guy, too, that probably needs more than anybody to keep on as close to normal (rest) as possible, not too much time off.”
Estrada, who did not speak to reporters Tuesday, is 3-1 with a 2.68 ERA in eight career postseason games, including four starts. He made four postseason relief appearances for Milwaukee in 2011.
Gibbons said right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who led the AL with a 3.00 ERA this season, will likely make just one start in the ALCS as the Blue Jays continue to limit his career-high workload.
Toronto, which lost to Kansas City in six games in last year’s ALCS, is looking to reach the World Series for the first time since winning back-to-back championships in 1992 and 1993.
To get there, they’ll have to beat an Indians squad that Gibbons called “tremendous,” and “probably the most balanced team in the American League.”
“It’s a very, very good offense, one of the best out there, so that’s not easy,” Gibbons said. “They’ve got a good defensive club. They’re real athletic and young. Tough ball club to shut down. They’re hot like us, too.”
The Blue Jays won three of seven meetings with the Indians in the regular season. Four of those games, including all three in an August series at Cleveland, were decided by one run.
“We’re going to have a tough task at hand but we feel like we have a team that can do that,” Blue Jays slugger and reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson said.
The Indians are seeking to give title-starved Cleveland its second championship in less than a year after the NBA’s Cavaliers ended a 52-year drought dating to a 1964 NFL championship for football’s Browns.
“Nobody in this clubhouse doubts what we’re what capable of,” left-hander Andrew Miller said after the Indians swept the Red Sox with a 4-3 win Monday night. “We saw in our games in Cleveland how much support we have. It’s a special place to be. I think we have bigger things ahead of us, but it’s not going to be any easier.”
Cleveland’s payroll ranks among the lower third of big league teams, some $26 million less than Toronto’s, but that’s of little concern to Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin, who allowed two runs and four hits in five innings to beat Boston in Game 3.
“You can see it takes a special group of people instead of a group of superstars,” Tomlin said.
Toronto will have four days off between eliminating Texas and playing Game 1 in Cleveland. It means valuable rest for everyone, Gibbons said, but especially for second baseman Devon Travis and left-hander Francisco Liriano.
Liriano was removed from the ALDS roster because of concussion sustained in Game 2 after he was struck in the back of the head by a Carlos Gomez line drive measured at 102 mph.
Liriano, who has made two relief appearances this postseason, said he felt fine after playing catch and riding an exercise bike Tuesday.
“The second day after I got hit I felt a little dizzy,” Liriano said. “After that, everything has felt normal. No headache, no dizziness, nothing.”
Liriano isn’t eligible to return until Game 2 of the ALCS.
Travis battled a sore knee for almost a month before he was scratched from Game 2 against Texas. He was available off the bench in Game 3 but did not play.
“I’m feeling much better,” Travis said. “I’ll be ready to go Friday.”