The Cleveland Indians have had an innate ability to deal with adversity this season, and they needed every bit of that on Monday. Trevor Bauer, dealing with a wounded pinky finger on his throwing hand, had to removed from the game two outs into the game due to excessive bleeding. However, the bullpen only allowed two Toronto runs, and the Indians offense, led Mike Napoli, did enough to give the Indians a win and a 3-0 lead in the ALCS. Here is how it all happened:
Carlos Santana demonstrated why he has been so valuable in the leadoff spot, drawing a five-pitch walk against Marcus Stroman. At first, it looked like Santana would get no further than first, after Jason Kipnis hit a ball fairly hard to left-center field that defensive wizard Kevin Pillar had no running down and Francisco Lindor struck out. However – Mike Napoli broke out of his postseason slump by hitting a ball off the wall in right field, just out of the reach of Jose Bautista for a double. Santana scored from first, giving the Tribe a 1-0 lead. Jose Ramirez would strand Napoli at second on a line-out to left field.
Unfortunately, things did not go as well for the Indians in the bottom-half of the inning: after striking out Jose Bautista and getting Edwin Encarnacion to fly-out (and mixing in two walks), Trevor Bauer’s injured pinky began bleeding heavily, and he had to removed from the game: a worst-case scenario for the Indians, who already were frighteningly-thin on starting pitchers. However, Dan Otero replaced Bauer and got Russell Martin to ground out, getting Cleveland out of the inning.
The Indians were able to make a little bit of noise in the second due to their baserunning: Coco Crisp drew a one out walk and stole second base easily. However, Tyler Naquin popped out and Roberto Perez struck out with Crisp at third after he advanced on wild pitch.
Toronto continued to build momentum to start the bottom half of the second, as Michael Saunders led off with a home run to left field to tie the game at 1-1. However, Otero managed to avoid any further damage, getting Pillar to ground out, and inducing a double-play ball off of Ryan Goins’ bat after allowing a single to Ezequiel Carrera.
Cleveland went about as quietly as they good in the third inning: Santana popped to short center, and Kipnis and Lindor hit weak ground balls the second base. With that, Stroman had retired 6 of the last 7 hitters he faced.
However, the Tribe bullpen continued to hold serve: Jeff Manship, making his first postseason appearance, took the ball from Otero. He allowed a leadoff single to Bautista, but went on to induce three straight pop-outs to Josh Donaldson, Encarnacion, and Troy Tulowitzki, and the score remained 1-1.
Cleveland managed to seize back some of the game’s momentum as Napoli continued to bust out of his playoff slump with a 411 foot bomb to center field, bringing the score to 2-1 – his eighth career postseason homer. However, Jose Ramirez, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Coco Crisp were then retired in order by Stroman.
The bottom of the fourth inning proved to be much of the same for Cleveland: the bullpen once again did their job, as Manship struck out Martin before giving way to Zach McAllister. Michael Saunders nearly took McAllister deep to the spot he hit his homer off Otero, but fell about ten feet short. Then, McAllister got Pillar to ground out to third, ending the frame with the Tribe lead still intact.
While the Indians were surely desperate to try to add to their lead, Marcus Stroman continued to seem unhittable to anyone not named Napoli, striking out Naquin looking and getting Roberto Perez and Carlos Santana to weakly pop out.
After holding off the Blue Jays for a few innings, a single mistake by Zach McAllister cost the Indians the lead: Carrera smoked a leadoff triple to right field that died after hitting the wall, allowing Carrera the extra stride or two to get to third base. A ground ball to Lindor at short by Ryan Goins tied the game at 2-2. Bryan Shaw then entered the game, and fans got a quick scare as Bautista flew out deep to left field. Josh Donaldson singled to keep the inning alive, but Shaw induced a ground ball off the bat at Encarnacion and end the threat.
Much like throughout the season (and the game Monday), the Indians answered when facing adversity. After Toronto tied the game in the fifth, Jason Kipnis lead off the sixth with a home run to deep right, giving the Indians a 3-2 lead. While Stroman would get Lindor to strikeout, a walk to Mike Napoli would knock Stroman out of the game, giving way to Joe Biagini.
Baserunning was highlighted coming into the series, and it would be baserunning that got Cleveland another run. While at first Napoli read a ball in the dirt, broke for second, and got in safely ahead of Martin’s throw. Jose Ramirez would then single to right-center, allowing Napoli to score and giving the Indians a 4-2 lead.
Bryan Shaw did his job in the bottom half, retiring Toronto in order, striking out Martin and Saunders after getting Tulowitzki to ground out – and presumably setting the stage for Andrew Miller to enter the game in the 7th.
The Indians couldn’t manage to add any insurance runs in the seventh: Tyler Naquin, struck out against Jason Grilli to lead off the inning, as he continued to look overmatched this postseason. Roberto Perez managed to reach on a single, but Carlos Santana popped to left and Kipnis flew to right to the end the top half of the inning.
It would be Allen who entered the game in the seventh, not Miller, and things would get a little tense. Allen got Carrera to fly out to right field, but Pillar would bloop a single to right field, and then steal second base. Justin Smoak came in to pinch hit for Goins, and worked the count full before Allen got him to chase a curveball for strikeout three. Allen faced Bautista, who worked a walk. That brought 2015 MVP Josh Donaldson to the plate, where one swing could have given Toronto the lead. Instead, Donaldson would line to left field, where Coco Crisp would make a diving grab to end the inning and keep Cleveland’s lead at 4-2.
The top of the eighth was promising for the Indians, with Lindor drawing a leadoff walk against Brett Cecil . Unfortunately, it wouldn’t lead to much, as Napoli would strike out and Ramirez popped out. Lindor attempted to steal second base with a 1-1 count on Chisenhall, and was initially called safe, but appeared to come off the bag, and was ruled out on a replay review to end the half inning.
There would be no drama in the bottom half of the eighth: Cody Allen took the hill to start the inning, and make quick work of Encarnacion, who grounded out into the Tribes’s heavy shift. Allen would then strike out Troy Tulowitzki looking on an inside fastball. At that point, Terry Francona gave the ball to Andrew Miller, who not surprisingly struck out Russell Martin on four pitches – his 18th strikeout in eight innings of work this postseason.
The Indians looked like they were primed to add an insurance run (or two) in the top half of the ninth against Roberto Osuna – but were dealt a bit of bad luck. Where as a bounce aided Toronto on Carrera’s triple, a bounce hurt the Indians. After Coco Crisp singled with one out, Naquin drove a wall to right, that bounced over the wall for a ground rule double. Crisp easily would have scored, but instead was held at third with one out. Then, Roberto Perez struck out, and Carlos Santana grounded out to leave Crisp at third.
However: Cleveland wouldn’t need it. Even though Andrew Miller didn’t meet his standard of striking out everyone – Dioner Navarro would lead off the inning with a slap-single to right, he would strike out Kevin Pillar and Melvin Upton Jr. before getting Darwin Barney to ground to second to secure the 3-0 lead in the series.
Player of the Game: Mike Napoli – 2-3, 2B, HR, BB, 2 RBI Final Score: Cleveland Indians 4 – Toronto Blue Jays 2
The Indians will turn to their ace, Corey Kluber – on short rest – Tuesday to try to secure their trip to the World Series. He will face Aaron Sanchez, arguably Toronto’s best pitcher, at 4:00 pm on TBS.