Bullpen great again, In­di­ans top Blue Jays for 3-0 lead

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Noah Tris­ter

TORONTO >> Ja­son Kip­nis and Mike Napoli home­red, and Cleve­land’s bullpen pulled off its most im­pres­sive feat yet in these Amer­i­can League play­offs, tak­ing over after Trevor Bauer’s first-in­ning exit and hold­ing off the Toronto Blue Jays in a 4-2 vic­tory Mon­day night that moved the In­di­ans within one win of their first pen­nant since 1997.

Six re­liev­ers com­bined for 25 outs and 128 pitches, lim­it­ing Toronto to two runs and seven hits as the In­di­ans took a 3-0 lead in the AL Cham­pi­onship Series. Un­beaten in six play­off games this year, Cleve­land can com­plete its sec­ond con­sec­u­tive sweep on Tues­day.

In­di­ans ace Corey Klu­ber is ex­pected to start Game 4 on short rest after Bauer’s drone-re­lated fin­ger in­jury cre­ated more up­heaval in a ro­ta­tion that’s been short-handed all post­sea­son. Bauer faced only four bat­ters be­fore be­ing pulled after his right pinkie be­gan drip­ping blood.

En­ter the Cleve­land re­liev­ers, who helped the In­di­ans to a Di­vi­sion Series sweep over Bos­ton and have them on the verge of another one against Toronto.

After Bauer left with two down in the first, the fi­nal 25 Toronto outs were dis­trib­uted as fol­lows: four each for Dan Otero and Jeff Man­ship, three for Zach McAl­lis­ter, five each for Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen, and four for Andrew Miller.

The Blue Jays scored twice but could never take the lead, and when Kip­nis led off the sixth with a home run to right-cen­ter field, Cleve­land went up 3-2 and was sud­denly just a few outs from be­ing able to turn the game over to Allen and Miller.

They ap­peared in that or­der, yet another in­stance in which man­ager Terry Fran­cona has ma­neu­vered his bullpen un­en­cum­bered by the idea of rigid roles. Allen, who usu­ally closes for the In­di­ans, came on in the sev­enth with a run­ner on and no­body out. A two-out walk to Jose Bautista put the po­ten­tial ty­ing run on, but Josh Don­ald­son’s liner to left field stayed up long enough for Coco Crisp to make a slid­ing catch.

Miller, who struck out 10 in 3 2/3 in­nings through the first two games of the series, fanned three this time and earned the save.

Cleve­land has won nine straight games dat­ing to the reg­u­lar sea­son.

Napoli en­tered 2 for 18 this post­sea­son and in an 0-for-25 slump against right-han­ders dat­ing to the reg­u­lar sea­son. He opened the scor­ing with an RBI dou­ble off righty Mar­cus Stro­man in the first — Napoli’s long fly popped out of Bautista’s glove be­fore both the ball and Bautista bounced off the wall in right field.

Bauer made it through only 21 pitches in the bot­tom of the in­ning. He’d been pushed back two days to Game 3 after cut­ting his fin­ger last week re­pair­ing one of the drones he en­joys fly­ing as a hobby. He re­ceived stitches and tried to pitch, but couldn’t make it through the first in­ning with­out blood drip­ping from his hand.

It’s yet another in­jury prob­lem for a Cleve­land team that couldn’t in­clude start­ing pitch­ers Car­los Carrasco and Danny Salazar on its ALCS roster. Even with the In­di­ans up 3-0, their ro­ta­tion for the rest of this series isn’t a sure thing for the In­di­ans, with Klu­ber com­ing back for Game 4 (and pre­sum­ably any Game 7) on short rest and lightly used rookie Ryan Merritt lined up for Game 5.

Michael Saun­ders tied it for Toronto with a solo homer in the sec­ond, match­ing the scor­ing to­tal by the Blue Jays over the first two games in Cleve­land. Napoli’s solo homer in the fourth put the In­di­ans up 2-1, but Eze­quiel Car­rera led off the Blue Jays fifth with a triple and scored to tie it on a grounder by Ryan Goins.

Kip­nis an­swered with his first hit of the series, a home run that put Cleve­land back ahead. And after Napoli drew a walk from Stro­man and ad­vanced to sec­ond on a wild pitch, Jose Ramirez added an RBI sin­gle off re­liever Joe Bi­agini.

CHAR­LIE RIEDEL — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Cleve­land In­di­ans re­lief pitcher Andrew Miller (24) and catcher Roberto Perez cel­e­brate their 4-2 win against the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 3 of the Amer­i­can League Cham­pi­onship Series in Toronto Mon­day.

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