It’s official: the Cleveland Indians are on their way to the World Series. As a follow-up performance to a dominating sweep of the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS, the Tribe leaned on its pitching, including an impressive showing from the ‘pen, to cool off the hot bats of the Toronto Blue Jays and take the ALCS in five games. The Indians trailed the Jays only once in the entire series. They now wait on the conclusion of the NLCS to find out who their opponent will be in the title series.
Indians Down Jays in ALCS
Game One: Cleveland 2, Toronto 0
Game one was the Corey Kluber show. Cleveland’s ace pitched 6.1 strong innings, and amassed six strikeouts while shutting down the hot Blue Jay bats. Kluber did allow six hits and two walks, but prevented any runner from reaching home. Andrew Miller, perhaps the best reliever in baseball right now, came on in relief in the seventh. He sat down five batters on strikes while allowing just a single hit before ceding to closer Cody Allen, who pitched the final frame to give Cleveland the shutout in Game One.
On the other side of the ball, Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada was similarly impressive. He went eight innings, eventually earning the complete game loss, and struck out six. He allowed a walk and six hits. Unfortunately for Estrada, one of those hits was his only real mistake of the evening, a one-out, two-run homer in the sixth inning to Francisco Lindor. The Toronto offense mustered nothing to pick Estrada up, and the Jays fell behind in the series by a game.
Game Two: Cleveland 2, Toronto 1
The second game I the series proceeded in a similar fashion. Indians starter Josh Tomlin was good enough, allowing just a single run on three hits over 5.2 innings, while striking out six. From there, Cleveland’s elite bullpen took over and closed out the game. Miller, once again, was particularly impressive. After recording five outs the night before, Miller tossed two more shutout innings while striking out five more Blue Jays. Allen finished things off once again, and recorded two more strikeouts.
J.A. Happ was solid over five innings for Toronto, but solid wasn’t enough. He surrendered just two runs, including a solo home run in the second inning to Carlos Santana, but that was all it took, as Toronto mustered just a single run in response, off a Josh Donaldson double in the third. The Blue Jays found themselves in a two-game hole heading back to Toronto.
Game Three: Cleveland 4, Toronto 2
If there was any game in the series that seemed ripe for the Blue Jays to take, it was this one. Not long before the series began, Indians starter Trevor Bauer injured his pinky on his throwing hand in a drone accident. The wound required ten stitches, but Bauer attempted to pitch anyway. He got through just two outs in the first inning before it became apparent that he wasn’t going to make it. Blood was pouring out of his finger, forcing manager Terry Francona to turn to his bullpen far earlier than anyone expected.
If Francona was concerned, he needn’t have been. The Indians bullpen put on a performance for the ages. Six different relievers combined to finish the game in relief of Bauer. Bryan Shaw eventually earned the win, and Miller, after once again pitching more than an inning, recorded three strikeouts and the save. This marked the first time in playoff history no pitcher for one team recorded more than five outs in a game.
The Cleveland offense pitched in as well, chasing Jays starter Marcus Stroman from the game after just 5.1 innings. Mike Napoli and Jason Kipnis contributed homers to the effort. Michael Saunders went yard in the second for Toronto, but the Blue Jays managed little else. Suddenly, it seemed like the Indians might get their second sweep of the postseason.
Game Four: Toronto 5, Cleveland 1
However, the Jays weren’t about to go down without a fight. The Toronto bats woke from their slumber against Kluber and company. Kluber himself was decent, surrendering two runs in five innings while striking out seven, but he couldn’t match the effort of young Jays stud Aaron Sanchez. Sanchez allowed just two hits and two walks over six innings, while fanning five. The Jays bullpen continued the effort for three innings of relief, while Toronto’s offense finally got going against Cleveland’s relievers.
Donaldson got the scoring started in the third inning with a solo homer off Kluber, and from there the floodgates opened. Over the course of the game, Donaldson contributed another RBI, and Ezequiel Carrera, Edwin Encarnacion (two RBI), and Kevin Pillar also got in on the action. It finally seemed like momentum might be swinging back in Toronto’s direction.
Game Five: Cleveland 3, Toronto 0
However, the Indians had other ideas. A combination of 4.1 shutout innings from starter Ryan Merritt and 4.2 shutout innings from the pen silenced the Jays, who once again wasted a great start from Estrada. The Toronto starter pitched six innings, allowing three runs (just two earned) while striking out seven. He didn’t issue a walk.
However, he made two mistakes. The first resulted in a Santana solo shot in the third, and the second saw Coco Crisp send one into the stands in the fourth. A Carrera error led to the third Cleveland run, but the game was already out of reach by then. Cleveland took the win, and took the series five games to one.