Blue Jays-Indians preview

CLEVELAND -- The last time the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians met, the results were rather garish. In a three-game series in Toronto starting July 1, the Indians won the first game 2-1 in 19 innings and the Blue Jays won the next two games by a combined score of 26-7. The third game of that series was won by Toronto 17-1.

Six weeks later, the teams will reconvene for another three-game series, this one in Cleveland. Both teams are in first place in their divisions -- Toronto in the AL East, Cleveland in the AL Central -- so this series could potentially be a playoff preview.

In game one of the series Friday night the pitching matchup is Cleveland's Trevor Bauer (9-5, 3.97) vs. Toronto's Francisco Liriano (6-12, 5.46).

Liriano will be making his third start for Toronto since the Blue Jays acquired him in a trade deadline deal with Pittsburgh. In his first two starts for the Jays Liriano was 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA. In 18 career appearances, 13 starts, against Cleveland Liriano is 5-6 with a 3.81 ERA. He has made nine career appearances, six starts, at Progressive Field and is 2-3 with a 5.67 ERA.

Bauer was the winning pitcher in that epic 19-inning 2-1 Cleveland victory in Toronto on July 1, pitching five scoreless innings, after the Indians ran out of relievers. Bauer has made two career starts against the Blue Jays and is 0-1 with a 17.47 ERA.

Whether Bauer will have to face Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson in Friday's game remains to be seen. Donaldson missed a game earlier this season with a jammed right thumb, and in Toronto's 7-4 win over the Yankees on Wednesday he was removed from the game in the sixth inning when he aggravated the thumb during an at bat.

"I didn't want to do any further damage to it than I already did, and having it possibly getting jammed further, a second or third time and then having to miss more time than I need to," said Donaldson, whose status is considered day-to-day.

Given Donaldson's success against Cleveland, it would be a surprise if he's not in the lineup Friday night. In four games against the Indians this year he is 7-for-18 (.389) with two home runs and four RBIs. In 120 career at bats against Cleveland he has a .333 average with seven home runs and 31 RBIs.

The Toronto series will be the last three games of the Indians' 11-game homestand, their longest homestand of the season. They are 6-2 in the first eight games, including winning two of three games from the White Sox in a series that concluded Thursday night.

Cleveland's successful season has been built on its starting pitching, although the rotation has hit a couple of speed bumps lately. Thursday night, in his first start after a 15-day stay on the disabled list, Danny Salazar was removed after a nightmarish 34-pitch, three-walk, 3-run first inning.

"He was rusty. You could tell from the beginning he couldn't find the plate," Indians manager Terry Francona said.

"I was wild. That's it," said Salazar. "I felt great, I just couldn't find my release point."

The Indians will have to make a roster move Friday, when pitcher Josh Tomlin is expected to be activated off the Family Emergency List, assuming he returns from his home in Tyler, Tex. Tomlin is scheduled to start Saturday's game against the Blue Jays.