TORONTO (AP) — The Blue Jays are running out of time to fix their startling power outage in the AL Championship Series.
A trip home to hitter-friendly Rogers Centre for Game 3 was expected to produce a revival against the Indians on Monday night. Instead, it was more of the same for the run-starved Blue Jays, who scratched out seven hits against seven Cleveland pitchers in a 4-2 loss that put Toronto in a 3-0 series hole.
Even a starting pitching disaster for Cleveland in front of a raucous Toronto crowd couldn’t jump-start the Jays. Trevor Bauer left after four batters and two outs when a stitched-up cut on his right pinkie finger began to bleed, so the Indians’ bullpen pulled off its most impressive October feat yet — getting 25 outs against one of the AL’s most feared lineups.
“Today was a bullpen day for them and they came through,” said Russell Martin, who went 0 for 4 and struck out three times.
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The Blue Jays have yet to lead in the series. Game 4 is Tuesday afternoon, and the test only gets tougher with Cy Young Award candidate Corey Kluber scheduled to start for Cleveland.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “That’s an understatement.”
Martin’s slump began during the regular season — the four-time All-Star catcher is 5 for 54 with two RBIs dating to Sept. 25.
He’s not alone in his struggles this series. Jose Bautista is 1 for 9, Edwin Encarnacion 2 for 11 and Troy Tulowitzki 1 for 11. That trio combined for 88 homers in the regular season but hasn’t gotten one yet in the ALCS.
The Blue Jays scored 759 runs in the regular season, fifth most in the AL, and were fourth in the majors with 221 home runs. After beating Baltimore in the wild-card game, Toronto pounded out 22 runs and hit eight homers in a three-game sweep of Texas in the Division Series.
Those booming bats have gone ice cold since. Michael Saunders ended the team’s 28-inning homerless streak with a leadoff shot in the second inning, but Toronto has produced just three runs in three ALCS losses. The Blue Jays have 17 hits in the series, 13 of them singles.
“It’s obviously tough,” outfielder Kevin Pillar said. “We got some big hits in the wild-card game and that kind of carried over to the Texas series. It’s that simple. We just haven’t been able to execute when we need it.”
Seeking a spark, Gibbons shuffled his lineup for Game 3, moving Bautista into the leadoff spot and dropping Ezequiel Carrera to eighth. Bautista went 1 for 3 with a walk and a single, and Carrera had two hits.
Saunders’ homer came off Dan Otero, Toronto’s first of the ALCS. Carrera tripled and scored in the fifth, giving the Blue Jays multiple extra-base hits in a game for the first time this series.
Still, it wasn’t enough to keep the Blue Jays from another offensive dud.
Toronto struck out 25 times over the first two games and punched out nine times in Game 3. The Blue Jays again faltered when facing the back end of Cleveland’s bullpen, going 2 for 11 against Cody Allen and Andrew Miller. Toronto is 3 for 29 from the seventh inning on in the series so far.
The Blue Jays did put runners at first and second with two outs in the seventh against Allen on Monday, but reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson ended the inning by lining out hard to left field on the first pitch, with Coco Crisp making a sliding catch.
Toronto rallied from a 0-2 deficit to beat Texas in last year’s ALDS, then fell behind 0-2 to Kansas City in the ALCS before losing the series in six games.
“We’ve had our backs up against the wall before,” Saunders said. “We’re going to draw on that experience and come back for Game 4.”
Despite the slump, Gibbons believes the Blue Jays are “due to erupt” before the series concludes.
“It hasn’t happened yet,” Gibbons said. “But I’ve seen it too many times. Hopefully tomorrow is that day. We’ll see.”
Like his manager, Martin remained optimistic that Toronto’s drought was due to end.
“Maybe we’re just saving it for Games 4, 5, 6 and 7,” he said. “I hope so.”