It’s okay. It was bound to happen. Let’s all take a breath. Going into the American League Championship Series down two starters and with Trevor Bauer suffering from drone issues—yes, I am mad about it—any fan would have been thrilled with the Indians leading the series 3-1, regardless of when the loss occurred. That may seem like a hollow truth right now, but it’s one we all have to remember.
Pitching on short rest for the first time in his career, Corey Kluber gave the Cavaliers a chance while giving up two runs over five innings. Unfortunately, that was two runs too many. After coming through in their first six games of the playoffs, the Indians didn’t have their clutch gene working tonight, mustering just one run when a double by Roberto Perez drove in Coco Crisp in the top of the fifth inning.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Blue Jays’ offense came to life for the first time all series. Josh Donaldson put the Jays on the board in the bottom of the third inning when he homered to left center. Edwin Encarnacion nearly made it 2-0 on a deep fly to right field, but Lonnie Chisenhall was able to make the catch at the wall.
The Blue Jays didn’t have to wait long to pad their lead. Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a pair of walks. After Michael Saunders struck out swinging, former Indian Ezequiel Carrera then singled to center to score Tulowitzki and give the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead.
Those were all the runs they would need, but they weren’t done. Jays second basemen Ryan Goins led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a single to left field off Indians reliever Bryan Shaw. Jose Bautista then reached first on a throwing error by Shaw in which he sent a rocket over the head of first baseman Mike Napoli, while Goins advanced to third on the play. Terry Francona then had Shaw intentionally walk Donaldson to load the bases for Encarnacion. Unlike nearly every other move Francona has made these playoffs, this one did not pay off, as Encarnacion singled to center to score Goins and Bautista and give the Blue Jays a 4-1 lead.
The Jays tacked on one more for good measure in the bottom of the eighth inning when Carrera tripled to right field off Mike Clevinger and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Kevin Pillar. The Indians managed just two hits and one walk for the game, and the Blue Jays emerged with a 5-1 victory to cut the Tribe’s series lead to 3-1.
It was a rough night for the Indians, and it’s more than understandable if fans are a bit nervous. After all, if there’s one thing Cleveland sports fans learned this summer, it’s that a 3-1 series lead is not sure thing. With rookie Ryan Merritt making just his second big league start in Game Five of the ALCS tomorrow afternoon, giving the Blue Jays any momentum seems ill-advised. That being said, if there’s one thing that Tribe fans can be sure of, it’s that their team is a bunch of fighters who aren’t going to lose any game without a fight. The Indians are still in the driver’s seat in this series, and I for one am not betting against Tito Francona and his boys.