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 4-2.
TORONTO – Andrew Miller and the Cleveland bullpen pulled off their most impressive feat yet in these American League playoffs, taking over after Trevor Bauer’s bloody exit and holding off the Toronto Blue Jays in a 4-2 victory Monday night that moved the Indians one win from their first pennant since 1997.
Jason Kipnis and Mike Napoli homered for the Indians, who took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series. They are unbeaten in six playoff games this year and can complete their second consecutive sweep Tuesday.
Six relievers combined for 25 outs and 128 pitches, limiting Toronto to seven hits. Miller got four outs for the save.
“If anybody has a hiccup, we probably lose,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said of the relievers.
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Indians ace Corey Kluber is scheduled to start Game 4 in Toronto on short rest after Bauer’s drone-repair-related finger injury created more upheaval in a rotation that has been short-handed all postseason. Bauer faced four batters before getting pulled in the first inning after his stitched-up right pinkie began dripping blood.
Enter the stingy Cleveland relievers, who pitched the Indians to a Division Series sweep of Boston and have them on the verge of another.
“It’s a good feeling,” Kipnis said. “We’ve still got one more to get there, and it’s going to be tough. We know these guys. Just kind of like the Boston series — we don’t want to wait around for them to figure it out. We want to get to them now.”
The Blue Jays have a combined three runs in three games.
After Bauer left with two down and two on 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 Miller.
The Blue Jays have not led in the series. And when Kipnis led off the sixth with a home run, Cleveland went up 3-2 and was suddenly 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 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 32/3 innings through the first two games of the series, fanned three batters this time.
Former Mariner Michael Saunders of the Blue Jays tied the score at 1 with a solo homer in the second inning.
• An Ontario judge quashed a last-minute effort to attempt to bar the Indians from using their team name and grinning “Chief Wahoo” logo during Monday’s game. The legal challenge was from indigenous activist Douglas Cardinal.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Tom McEwen dismissed Cardinal’s application and said he would give his reasons at a later date.
Monique Jilesen, the lawyer for Cardinal, earlier told McEwen the game could be played with spring-training uniforms that don’t carry the name or “Chief Wahoo” logo.
• Game 3 of the NLCS is Tuesday in Los Angeles, which split the first two games with the Cubs in Chicago.
Right-hander Jake Arrieta, the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner, will start for the Cubs; he pitched a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium in August 2015.
Lefty Rich Hill, a former Cub, will pitch for the Dodgers; he was acquired from Oakland in August and has been hampered by finger blisters this year.