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The Globe and Mail

Cleveland carries significant base-stealing advantage into series against Jays

The numbers seem clear when it comes to Cleveland's formidable running game as the team heads into Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

For Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin, who will be tasked with trying to halt that running game, the numbers lie.

It seems like a confusing story. Cleveland stole 134 bases to lead the AL this season. Former Blue Jay Rajai Davis leads the running brigade with 43 stolen bags. Jose Ramirez is No. 2 with 22 while Francisco Lindor tallied 19.

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On the flipside, Martin, the Blue Jays veteran catcher who is considered one of the best defensively in the game, has thrown out only 15.3 per cent (11 of 72) of attempted base-stealers.

That's the lowest rate of any regular catcher this season. By comparison, Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals enjoyed a 48.1 success rate in cutting down base-stealers.

So it would appear that Cleveland has a big edge when it comes to being able to move up a bag or two if the situation warrants, which could have a big effect in the best-of-seven series.

Just let them try, is Martin's response.

"For me, it's just what I love to do," Martin said, about catching would-be base-stealers. "We can talk about the numbers, whatever you want. We'll see how it plays out after the series is all over is all I have to say."

Martin said he has no explanation for his low success rate.

"I don't," he said. "Numbers lie, that's why. If they want to take their chance … "It's something like, it's what I'm best at in life … catching and throwing. I don't want to sound overconfident but it's always been a good part of my game. So for me, it's a non issue."

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The Blue Jays start Marco Estrada (9-9, 3.48 ERA) against former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber (18-9, 3.41 ERA) in Friday's opener.

On Saturday, 20-game winner J.A. Happ will face Cleveland's Trevor Bauer, 12-8.

On Monday, when the series resumes in Toronto for Game 3, Marcus Stroman will face Josh Tomlin. Aaron Sanchez starts for the Jays in Game 4 on Tuesday against Mike Clevinger.

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