playoff 2016 picks: Indians or Blue Jays? SN experts make their ALCS predictions

The Blue Jays and the Indians will square off in the 2016 ALCS, which starts Friday in Cleveland. Toronto is looking to return to the World Series for the first time since 1993 while Cleveland hasn’t won the pennant since 1997. PLAYOFFS: Every team’s worst postseason memory So which team will emerge victorious? Sporting News’ baseball experts break it down:RYAN FAGAN: As I wrote a couple days ago, these are the Blue Jays we expected to see all season. Their offense is, after a September slump, as powerful as advertised (and the couple days off after sweeping the Rangers to allow guys like Josh Donaldson to heal up certainly won’t hurt that). They might have the best rotation remaining in the playoffs, and their bullpen has been outstanding during their four playoff games (1.29 ERA in 14 innings). The defense is pretty darn good, too. PICK: Blue Jays in six.MORE: The worst everyday players of 2016 (Getty Images) JASON FOSTER: The Indians’ starters managed to hold the Boston lineup in check in the ALDS despite the absence of Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazer, but it’s far from a guarantee that they can do it again with the Blue Jays. Still, if the starters can get deep enough into the game for the bullpen to do its thing — including more strategic Andrew Miller appearances — Cleveland has a good chance to reach the World Series. Toronto, meanwhile, has big-boppers who can change any game with one swing, so the Jays’ best chance is to keep the line moving on offense and put the Indians in early holes.PICK: Indians in six.TOM GATTO: The Tribe won the season series 4-3, and it looks as though the LCS will end the same way. The offenses are essentially a push (the teams were separated by 18 runs over 162 games in the regular season), which leaves the pitching matchup as the decider. The Jays have the deeper rotation but the Indians have the better bullpen with Dan Otero, Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen in the lat

e innings. That group is well-rested after helping to secure a sweep of the Red Sox. Expect manager Terry Francona to ride those four to a berth in the World Series.PICK: Indians in sevenJUSTIN McGUIRE: Cleveland had the second best record in the league in 2016 and easily dispatched a powerful Red Sox team in the ALDS. So why am I picking the Blue Jays to move on to the World Series? Well, did you see what Toronto did to Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and the rest of the Texas pitching staff? The Jays scored 22 runs and notched 14 extra base hits, including eight homers, in three games. These guys can flat out hit, and I simply don’t think Cleveland can keep them in check for long without the injured Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. And let’s not forget, Toronto’s pitching is quite good as well.PICK: Blue Jays in five. (Getty Images) JESSE SPECTOR: Both teams swept the division series, so both come in looking really good, with their rotations set as they want and good rest. Both teams rely on their pitching — yes, Toronto had the lowest staff ERA in the American League this year, despite the reputation as a high-flying offense. The difference is in the lineups. The Blue Jays, relying on power, are more apt to go cold than the diverse Cleveland attack, which has more ways to beat you, from Mike Napoli’s thunder to Rajai Davis’ lightning on the bases. Plus, as a tactician, Terry Francona has the edge on John Gibbons, and the superior weapon at his disposal in Andrew Miller. Cleveland already ended one era with David Ortiz in Boston. It’s time to put down the Jose Bautista/Edwin Encarnacion tandem in Toronto.PICK: Cleveland in 6.MVP: Francisco Lindor.