TORONTO (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Indians currently have two healthy starting pitchers and are just one win from reaching the World Series.
This is absolutely insane. And totally unbelievable.
After starter Trevor Bauer’s lacerated pinkie busted back open just four batters into Monday’s game, Cleveland had no choice but to their bullpen in the first inning of Game 3, and manager Terry Francona was forced to find a way to make the puzzle pieces fit.
The Indians’ relievers responded by tossing 8 1/3 superb innings against the always dangerous Blue Jays offense, as Cleveland bested the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre, 4-2, going up 3-0 in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.
And despite being thrust into action early, the Indians still managed to set up their pen in the most advantageous way over the final innings of Monday’s game.
That just shouldn’t be possible. But the Indians, who are still undefeated in the 2016 MLB postseason, keep making the seemingly impossible happen in October.
Dan Otero, Jeff Manship, Zach McAllister, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen and Andrew Miller combined to limit the potent Toronto attack to just a pair of runs, yielding seven hits, one walk and eight strikeouts.
Miller recorded the final four outs, recording three strikeouts in 1 1/3 frames. The lefty has now struck out 13 of the 17 batters he has faced in the ALCS.
Toronto’s damage came in the form of a second-inning round-tripper by Michael Saunders off Manship and a fifth-inning RBI groundout to short by Ryan Goins on a ball that just evading the reach of McAllister on the mound.
Cleveland’s pen was backed by offensive contributions by Mike Napoli, who drove in a pair with a double and homer, and Jason Kipnis, who broke a sixth-inning tie by blasting a solo shot to right field off Jays starter Marcus Stroman.
Napoli and Kipnis each entered Game 3 hitless over the first two games of the ALCS against the Blue Jays.
Stroman lasted 5 1/3 innings for Toronto, allowing four runs on three hits, walking three and striking out five.
Napoli didn’t just impact Monday’s game with his bat, he also contributed with his legs. Cleveland’s first baseman alertly moved up on a ball in the dirt that momentarily kicked away from Russell Martin, taking second base with one out in the top of the sixth.
Seconds after Napoli advanced on the wild pitch, Jose Ramirez blooped a soft single to right field off Joe Biagini, enabling Napoli to score a key second run in the frame, extending the Tribe’s lead to 4-2.
Terry Francona said Danny Salazar’s two-inning simulated game on Sunday was the “best progress” the righty has made during his rehab. Salazar threw fastballs and changeups during the session to live batters.
The Indians aren’t ready to activate the 26-year-old pitcher anytime soon, but Francona added that Salazar is “doing much better,” and could still potentially be an option if Cleveland advances to the World Series.
Due to the re-aggravation of Bauer’s cut right pinkie on Monday night, the Indians will turn to their ace, Corey Kluber, with a chance to clinch a World Series berth on short rest in Game 4. The Blue Jays will counter with righty Aaron Sanchez.
First pitch in Game 4 of the ALCS is set for 4:08 p.m. ET.