Three Strikes: Indians overcome Bauer’s early exit to take 3–0 ALCS lead
- Disaster struck for Cleveland when Trevor Bauer’s bloody finger forced him out, but the bullpen threw eight solid innings and Mike Napoli provided the offensive spark to put the Indians one win from the World Series.
The Indians survived a bloody finger from starter Trevor Bauer to take a commanding 3–0 lead in the ALCS, as they beat the Blue Jays 4–2 in Game 3 in Toronto Monday night. The trio of Dan Otero, Jeff Manship and Zach McAllister came on in early and middle relief and pitched 3 1/3 innings, while Mike Napoli went 2 for 3 with a home run and two RBIs. For the Blue Jays, Marcus Stroman gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings, while Michael Saunders hit a home run.
Game 4 is Tuesday afternoon in Toronto, where the Indians will have a chance to advance to the World Series for the first time since 1997.
Bloody sock it’s not, but Trevor Bauer’s bloody finger is going to have some lasting impacts on this series. Bauer left the game after just 2/3 of an inning, his pinky bleeding after his wound from a Friday drone repair accident re-opened. His start was already pushed back a game; perhaps it should’ve been pushed back more.
The Indians had to go to their bullpen for the rest of the game, and the ’pen delivered. Dan Otero pitched 1 1/3 innings, giving up a run. Jeff Manship also went 1 1/3 innings and gave up nothing. Zach McAllister pitched an inning and gave up a run. Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen each pitched 1 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. And Andrew Miller was his usual unhittable self to close things out. In an undesirable situation, the bullpen came through.
The Jays still had trouble getting their offense going, but the real test will be in Game 4. The Indians announced during the game that Corey Kluber will start on short rest, after throwing 6 1/3 innings in Game 1. Tuesday will be the first time Kluber has pitched on short rest in his five-year career. Essentially, the Indians are entrusting their season to Kluber. If he can only go a few innings, their bullpen could be irrevocably taxed, and the Indians might have to swim upstream the rest of the series despite having a lead. It would put undue pressure on their starters, and we don’t know what the Indians will get from Bauer going forward.
Luckily, Kluber has been great so far, striking out 13 batters in 13 1/3 innings of postseason work. And he’s been their ace since he came to the team in 2013. If the Indians are to advance to the World Series, even with the win, they’ll need Kluber to be at his best. History is on his side.
New strategy, same results
The Blue Jays changed their lineup Monday, in hopes of jump-starting their offense. It didn’t really work. Jose Bautista started at leadoff, something he’s done 40 times, and hit in line with his overall numbers. On Monday, he was 1 for 3. The Jays stacked their lineup at the top, with Donaldson, Encarnacion, Tulowitzki and Martin following Bautista. The six players went 2 for 17. The Jays lineup has been a huge part of their success in the last few years, constantly driving in runs and hitting homers. This series has been a struggle. In three games, they’ve scored just three runs.
Toronto’s offensive struggles are a testament to Cleveland’s pitching. The Blue Jays demolished Texas and looked kind of unstoppable. Against Cleveland, it’s been a different team. Down 3–0, they must find their offensive stride if they want to get back in this series. Because with Toronto’s pitching (which has not been bad) they have a chance, especially with their quick-strike ability. It starts at the top. After his brush with conspiracy theories, it’s incumbent upon Bautista to get going, or the only storyline will be about his lack of production.
Welcome to the party at Napoli’s
Mike Napoli knows himself well. The 34-year-old first baseman entered the game batting just .135 since the start of September, and was only 2 for 18 in the playoffs.
But he also knew what might come next. “I feel like I'm one pitch away from doing something,” Napoli told Cleveland.com on Sunday.
He was right. Napoli hit an RBI double in the first and followed that up with his first home run of the playoffs. After walking in the sixth, the 6’1”, 225-pound Napoli even stole a base (a rarity, given that he’s only swiped 38 bases in his 11-year career).
Despite their success so far in the playoffs, the Indians have averaged just 3.8 runs entering tonight. They’ve won on pitching. Jason Kipnis (4 for 18 entering tonight), Tyler Naquin (1 for 7) and Carlos Santana (4 for 17) haven’t done much. It’s been a lot of Francisco Lindor and Andrew Miller. Add some more offense to the mix, however, and the Indians have some LeBron magic about them that is gaining with every game.