TORONTO — The Cleveland Indians are set to return to the Rogers Centre, the scene of their American League Championship Series-clinching win last October.
They will be facing the Toronto Blue Jays, the team they beat in five games in the ALCS, in the opener of a three-game series on Monday night.
Not only did the Indians dominate the Blue Jays in the ALCS, but during the offseason they signed away Toronto’s best power hitter, Edwin Encarnacion, as a free agent.
Article continues below ...
The return of Encarnacion adds a little more spice to a series that has plenty of meaning for the Blue Jays, who are trying to get out of a big rut that they find themselves in after a poor start.
“I’m happy to go back,” Encarnacion said.
Indians manager Terry Francona was asked if he thought that Encarnacion would receive a good reception from the Toronto fans.
“I would hope so,” Francona said. “All that he did up there … but I hope he does something to break their hearts.”
The Blue Jays are coming off only their second series win of the season — both against Tampa Bay — after beating the Rays 2-1 at Tropicana Field on Sunday. Reliever Joe Biagini, making his first major league start, combined with four relievers on a three-hitter in the victory.
Toronto is 11-20 with a 4-8 record at home.
The Blue Jays have had their share of injuries, with the left side of their infield on the disabled list — third baseman Josh Donaldson (calf) and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (hamstring). They also have starting pitchers J.A. Happ (elbow) and Aaron Sanchez (blister) on the DL.
It appeared the situation could be worsening when Marcus Stroman (2-2, 3.89 ERA) left his start at Yankee Stadium last week with tightness in his right armpit.
Stroman will be able to make his scheduled start Monday against the Indians, who will counter with Trevor Bauer (2-3, 7.67 ERA). Bauer is 1-1 with a 6.27 ERA in three career starts against Toronto.
Stroman is 0-0 with a 3.52 ERA in three career regular-season games (two starts) against the Indians. Jason Kipnis is hitting .333 (3-for-9) with one homer and two RBIs against him. In one postseason against Cleveland, Stroman is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA.
The Blue Jays’ lack of hitting has been a major problem this season. Donaldson, who continues his rehabilitation in Dunedin, Fla., sees things changing.
“It’s frustrating because you see these guys and they’re putting in the work and the time and you know they’re getting good results as far as the ball coming off the bat,” said Donaldson, who was with the team during the weekend in St. Petersburg, Fla. “But they’re just not getting the results with the hits. And I do believe from my time in the big leagues and from personal experience that that will change and the fortunes will begin to start turning for some guys in here. It’s just a matter of time.”
Cleveland is coming off a 1-0 victory over the Royals at Kansas City on Sunday when starter Mike Clevinger allowed only one hit in 5 2/3 innings and four relievers allowed none.
The Indians (17-13) have been held to three runs or fewer in 16 games this season. They scored a total of five runs in winning two of three games in the series against the Royals.
“Hey, winning 1-0 is a lot better than losing 1-0,” Francona said.
Indians left fielder Michael Brantley left the game Sunday with a sprained right ankle in the fifth inning after he hit first base trying to beat out a grounder.
“It’s not the dreaded high ankle sprain,” Francona said. “He hit first base hard. Hopefully, it’s just a day or two. At least that’s what (the trainers) think.”