Indians, Jays meet in ALCS after 'quirky' games in season

CLEVELAND (AP) " A bench-clearing brawl was about the only thing that didn't happen during seven tense, theatric and highly entertaining regular-season games between the Toronto Blue Jays and Indians, who meet in the American League Championship Series opener on Friday.

If October's drama is anything close to what it was like between the clubs in July and August, buckle up.

Their previous matchups included a 19-inning marathon on July 1 in Toronto and a walk-off Indians win on Aug. 19 on back-to-back homers in the ninth inning, the second an inside-the-park shot that turned rookie Tyler Naquin into a local legend.

The Indians, who swept Boston in the AL Division Series after a season filled with injuries, start ace pitcher Corey Kluber in Game 1 against Toronto's Marco Estrada.

Kluber was magnificent in his postseason debut, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 2 of the ALDS. He will have to be on his game against the Blue Jays, who hit eight home runs in their sweep of Texas and feature a lineup with danger from top to bottom.

"They're a solid lineup, one through nine," said Kluber, tagged for five runs in 3 1/3 innings against Toronto on July 3.

"It's not just two, three, four guys that can hurt you. Everybody in that lineup can hurt you. They have a lot of power, but they're also patient."

On Canada Day, the Indians and Blue Jays slugged it out in Rogers Centre for more than six hours before Cleveland escaped with a 2-1 win.

Indians manager Terry Francona brought in starter Trevor Bauer, who was scheduled to pitch the following day, and he responded with five scoreless innings.

The victory capped a franchise-record, 14-game winning streak for the Indians, and although it may have sapped them physically, the win had a positive effect.

"When you're playing extra ball, you're like, 'Let's figure out a way to win'," closer Cody Allen said. "And when we did it was like, 'Man, if we can figure out a way to win that game, we can win any game."

Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said the game was a test of endurance.

"I felt like I was out there at shortstop forever," he said. "We were using position players to pitch. That game stands out because it shows how evenly matched we are. Every game was close. They walked us off and you remember that because you're walking into the dugout saying, 'Man, we had that one.' And you hear the Indians people saying they've been doing that all year, so there's a lot of story lines for this series. It's the two best teams to me."

The Blue Jays have been in playoff mode for weeks. They battled their way to a wild-card berth and beat Baltimore in the one-game playoff, riding into a sweep of Texas.

Now, they'll square off with the Indians, a team that may lack marquee names but not confidence.

"They have their strengths and weaknesses," Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista said. "And so do we. As long as everybody executes and excels at what they're good at, it's going to be a tough series for either opponent to come out on top. We'll see what happens. They're a speed-and-base-hit club and we're a walk-and-home-run club. It's going to be a pretty good series, I believe."

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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