Cleveland 3, Toronto 0
When: 4:00 PM ET, Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Where: Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario
TORONTO – (Wire Service Report) – The Cleveland Indians tried somebody new Wednesday, but in the end, a couple of old reliables put them in the World Series after they defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 3-0 to win the American League Championship Series in five games. The newcomer was Ryan Merritt, who was making his postseason debut in his fifth appearance and second start in the major leagues. He pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings.
The familiar dependables were relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, who took care of the final 3 2/3 innings. Allen pitched the ninth to earn his fifth save of the postseason. Miller was named Most Valuable Player of the ALCS, recording 14 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings while allowing two hits, no walks and no runs.
“At this point in the year, you just find a way, that’s all that matters,” Miller said. “It’s about winning. As I said earlier, I would have given up 100 runs if we won 101-100.”
Carlos Santana and Coco Crisp provided solo home runs for the Indians, who will play either the Chicago Cubs or the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series starting Tuesday at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
“We just got beat in this series, plain and simple,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Merritt allowed two hits and no walks while striking out three before being replaced by Bryan Shaw (2-0) in the fifth.
“He did a great job,” Gibbons said of Merritt, a 24-year-old left-hander. “He came out there, I thought from the get-go, and looked comfortable, confident. He picked the play apart pretty good. I thought he was pretty much living on the edges, from my angle.”
Indians manager Terry Francona said, “I’d be lying if I didn’t say that watching Ryan Merritt go out and do what he did, the only person that really got in his way was me. And I thought that he had gotten us to a point where the bullpen could take over. But what he did was above and beyond his years.”
Toronto starter Marco Estrada (0-2) allowed five hits, including the two solo home runs, and three runs (two earned) in six innings. The right-hander struck out seven. It was the second consecutive year that Toronto lost in the ALCS.
“To stay on top or get close to the top, I mean, it takes a lot,” Gibbons said.
The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a two-out single by Francisco Lindor, who had three hits in the game, and a double by Mike Napoli. Left fielder Ezequiel Carrera was charged with an error when he mishandled Napoli’s hit on the carom off the wall.
Santana belted his second homer of the postseason with one out in the third. Meanwhile, Merritt needed only 31 pitches in setting down nine straight hitters over the first three innings. Overall, he threw 49 pitches — 33 for strikes.
“I was definitely nervous the first inning, but I definitely got confidence after getting through the first inning,” Merritt said.
Francona said, “He threw strikes. He worked ahead, even with an 85-86 mile-an-hour fastball, you saw him beat their barrel a number of times. He didn’t let the noise get to him, he was phenomenal.”
Crisp hit his second homer of the postseason with two outs in the fourth. Jose Bautista singled with one out in the sixth, and Miller replaced Shaw. The left-hander’s first batter, Josh Donaldson, grounded to shortstop for the inning-ending double play. Miller set the Blue Jays down in order in the seventh. Pinch hitter Dioner Navarro singled to lead off the bottom of the eighth, but Miller continued his brilliant postseason by striking out Carrera, inducing a fielder’s choice and getting a flyout to end the inning.
Miller allowed one hit and struck out one in 2 2/3 innings before yielding to Allen, who struck out a pair and worked around one hit in the ninth.
The Blue Jays got their first baserunner when Donaldson singled with one out in the fourth. Edwin Encarnacion followed by grounding to shortstop to start a double play. Shaw, who replaced Merritt in the fifth after Russell Martin blooped a single to right, gave up a single to pinch hitter Michael Saunders before striking out Carrera and Kevin Pillar to earn the win.
“To get us out, you have to pitch well,” Martin said. “You have to, and they did. The thing that sucks is sometimes even if you do pitch well, we still get them. But that didn’t happen this series.”
Just as Bautista was about to come to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, a fan ran on the field and was caught near second base. Bautista, who can be a free agent in the offseason, doubled. Donaldson struck out, as did Encarnacion, who also can become a free agent. Troy Tulowitzki fouled out to first.
“They pitched great,” Bautista said. “It was tough. They seemed to make the right pitches at the right time and got us out, and they never let us string base hits together. And when we had men in scoring position, they seemed to turn it up a notch and go to another level of execution. My hat’s off to them.”
NOTES: Indians SS Francisco Lindor went 3-for-4, his third multi-hit game in the five-game ALCS. He went 7-for-19 (.368) in the series. … Cleveland RHP Cody Allen earned three saves in the ALCS. … Cleveland’s franchise record of six consecutive postseason games with a home run ended in the 5-1 loss Tuesday in Game 4 of the ALCS. … Blue Jays 3B Josh Donaldson hit his first home run of this postseason in the third inning of Game 4 to end a string of 53 innings in which Cleveland had not trailed during the postseason. … Indians RHP Corey Kluber had his postseason scoreless streak ended at 15 1/3-innings by Donaldson’s homer.