After four games the Blue Jays find themselves in a 3-1 hole heading into Game Five of the American League Championship Series. Aaron Sanchez just pitched a dandy in Game Four at Rogers Centre, allowing two hits over six strong innings, along with five strikeouts to help keep Toronto’s season alive.
Through the first three games of the series the Jays only mustered a measly three runs. While Cleveland’s pitching has been stellar, the umpire’s certainly haven’t been doing the Jays hitters any favours. Is it the umps’ faults though? A recent ESPN blog post noted that through the first two games of the series, Indians’ pitchers got the benefit of questionable strike calls far more often than the Jays pitchers, in part because of the framing ability of Indians’ catcher Roberto Perez. That same trend continued into Game Three when the series shifted to Rogers Centre.
Perez’s framing didn’t have as much of an impact in Game Four though, with the Jays’ bats finally coming alive in their 5-1 win. Perez’s pitch framing won’t even be a topic of discussion if the Jays’ offense can do its part in backing up the team’s strong pitching.
Of the 34 major league teams to go down 3-0 in a best of seven playoff series, only the 2004 Boston Red Sox came back to win. The Jays’ have a chance at doing just that, for a few reasons:
- If the Jays can get leads early on and avoid facing Andrew Miller when trailing, their chances of success would definitely increase. Miller has thoroughly dominated Toronto hitters this series, striking out 10 of 12 batters he’s faced.
- Through four games, the Jays’ have only a minus-one run differential in the series. This shows that even though Toronto’s offense slumped miserably through the first three games, the games were all still close. Cleveland could be in a load of trouble if Toronto’s offense gets on a tear when it matters most.
- With Cleveland ace Corey Kluber having just pitched on three-day rest and Trevor Bauer’s health in question, the Indians rotation has some major question marks. Rookie Ryan Merritt, who’s scheduled to start Game Five, lacks both postseason and starting experience. Merritt has had some success coming out of the bullpen, but he’ll likely be on a tight leash in a high leverage game, especially with only one start in his young career.
- If Merritt can’t last long, Cleveland’s bullpen will once again have to carry a heavy burden, which could be a tough task to handle for an Indians bullpen that pitched over eight innings in Game Three. Aside from Miller, the Jays’ have started to show signs they can hit Indians’ relievers.
- Per Zachary Rymer of Bleacher Report, the Jays won four straight games seven times during the regular season. Who’s to say they can’t do it again?
Get ahead early, avoid Andrew Miller, get the bats going. Easy enough, right? A historic comeback is definitely on the table.