TORONTO — The Cleveland Indians are going for a club record when they play the Toronto Blue Jays Friday afternoon as they try to extend their winning streak to 14 games.
The Indians defeated the Blue Jays 4-1 on Thursday to equal their club record with their 13th straight win. The record was set in 1942 and matched in 1951.
The Indians also finished June with a 22-6 record, the best in franchise history for any month.
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The Indians will start right-hander Josh Tomlin (9-1, 3.22 ERA), and the Blue Jays will counter with struggling right-hander Marcus Stroman (6-4, 5.33 ERA), who began the season as the No. 1 starter but has had trouble making his sinker sink and is 1-3 with an 8.44 earned-run average in his past six starts.
Indians manager Terry Francona is keeping an even keel.
“You turn the page pretty quick,” Francona said after Thursday's win in which Carlos Carrasco struck out 14 in in 7 1/3 innings. “If you start taking time to sit back and evaluate (what happened) two weeks ago, then tomorrow might not be so good. I just think they're having fun trying to play the game the right way. That;s a good way to go about it.”
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have lost seven of their past 11 games after winning 20 of their previous 28.
If there was anything encouraging about the loss on Thursday, it was the return of left-handed reliever Brett Cecil from the disabled list, where he had been since May 15 with a strained triceps. He opened the season 0-5 with a 5.23 ERA in 16 outings before going on the DL but during his rehabilitation, he regained his curveball, which is vital to his success. Cecil pitched a perfect eighth inning Thursday, and manager John Gibbons and Cecil were both encouraged by the outing.
“Hopefully (his return) does bring back a boost of energy,” Cecil said. “Hopefully I can get off to a good start and get these guys going a little bit. I'm not here to change the whole face of the bullpen, but they know what they need to do, I know what I need to do and hopefully we can all do it together.”
Cecil will be used in late innings as bridge to closer Roberto Osuna.
“He's going into a valuable role, because we need that,” Gibbons said. “We've seen him do that many times. I can't say this is his inning or that inning is his inning, but it's going to be important stuff.”
Meanwhile, a good start by Stroman on Friday would be helpful for the bullpen. Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said Stroman's' start Sunday, a 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox, was “really encouraging.”
Stroman allowed seven hits and four runs in five innings. He has faced Cleveland once in his career, allowing five hits and five runs (four earned) in 1 1/3 innings in a relief appearance.
Tomlin also pitched Sunday, allowing three runs, six hits and a walk while striking out three in eight innings in a 9-3 win over the Detroit Tigers. He is 1-0 with a 5.19 ERA in his three career starts against the Blue Jays. He is 1-0 with a 5.56 ERA in two starts at Rogers Centre. He is 5-0 with a 2.76 ERA in seven starts on the road this season. He has allowed only eight walks in 362 batters faced this season. His 0.81 walks per nine innings is second in the majors to Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers (0.67).
He will be trying to pitch the Indians into history on Friday afternoon against a sellout crowd on Canada Day at Rogers Centre.
“It's something pretty special that's going on right now,” said Cleveland closer Cody Allen, who earned his 17th save Thursday. “But you've also got to remember that just because we're winning ballgames right now doesn't mean it's going to be easy the next day. We know we've got our hands full for the rest of this series. That's a good club over there.”