The 2016 MLB playoffs have been nothing short of amazing thus far, and there’s more absolutely enthralling action in store for baseball aficionados as the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians are slated to kick off the ALCS on Friday in Cleveland.
Both teams head into the ALCS with a plenitude of momentum. The Blue Jays made mincemeat of the Texas Rangers, sweeping them in three games and the ridiculously underrated Indians did the same, devastating the Boston Red Sox in three straight to win their ALDS matchup.
Toronto is most known for being an offensive juggernaut over the past few years, but the Blue Jays pitched astonishingly well all season and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Meanwhile, the Indians are one of the most balanced teams in MLB and can make opponents look incredibly foolish in a myriad of ways.
So, will John Gibbons’ Blue Jays reach the World Series for the first time in 23 years, or will Terry Francona’s Indians prove their ALDS sweep was no fluke with another dominant showing in the ALCS?
Find out with these five bold predictions.
Francisco Lindor Electrifies
Francisco Lindor doesn’t always get the recognition he deserves since he plays for the Cleveland Indians, who don’t have an incredibly large national following. But make no mistake, he’s one of MLB’s premier players.
Lindor didn’t do much with the bat during the ALDS, hitting just.250 with one home run and one RBI. But he played solid defense and his regular season stat line (.301, 15 HR, 78 RBI, 19 SB) suggests he won’t be ineffective at the plate very long.
Expect Lindor to hit.400 with two home runs, eight RBI’s, and three steals, giving the Blue Jays heartburn with headache all series.
Marco Estrada Pummeled By Cleveland
According to ESPN, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marco Estrada has had a tough time against Cleveland’s roster. In 57 at-bats, the Indians are hitting.281 with an alarming six home runs and 10 RBI’s against the veteran Estrada.
Marco is scheduled to start in Game 1 on Friday, which means it’s possible he will pitch twice in Cleveland if Toronto uses four different starters, as he could end up starting Game 5 as well. This is terrible news for Estrada considering how tough the Indians are at home.
Expect Estrada to struggle in the ALCS, especially in Game 1 as Cleveland jumps on him early and knocks him out in the third inning.
Terry Francona Manages Circles Around John Gibbons
Terry Francona is one of the greatest managers in MLB history and deserves endless praise for creating a winning culture inside the Indians organization.
In fairness to John Gibbons, what he’s done with the Toronto Blue Jays has been exceptional as well. But, deep down, we all know Francona is the superior manager, especially when it comes to handling a bullpen.
Thus, it’s fair to assume the guy with two World Series rings has the advantage in the ALCS. Expect Francona to manage circles around Gibbons in every aspect of the game.
Edwin Encarnacion Stays Hot While Rest Of Blue Jays Lineup Cools Off
Edwin Encarnacion has been raking this postseason, hitting.375 with three home runs and seven RBI’s, and doesn’t project to cool off anytime soon.
Despite lackluster efforts from Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Troy Tulowitzki when Toronto needs them the most, Encarnacion will continue to swing a hot bat, and hit another three home runs.
Cleveland Runs Roughshod Over Toronto, Wins ALCS In Five Games
Put simply, it would be foolish to pick against the Indians, who are a better all-around team than the Blue Jays, and have a Hall of Fame manager in Terry Francona leading the way.
Led by otherworldly performances from Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis at the plate, to go along with Francona’s keen late game managerial tactics and solid relief pitching by Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, Cleveland will be in control of the ALCS from start to finish, and ultimately earn a trip to the 2016 World Series with a convincing 4-1 series win over Toronto.
[Featured Image by Jason Miller/Getty Images]