CLEVELAND -- For the first time in nine years and just the fifth time in the history of the franchise, the Cleveland Indians are on their way to the American League Championship Series.
The Indians earned the berth into the ALCS by finishing off a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox in the best-of-five matchup with a 4-3 win in Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park Monday night.
After the series win over Boston, the Indians will face off against the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS, starting with Game 1 at Progressive Field on Friday night.
Here are four reasons why the Indians swept the A.L. East Division Champion Red Sox and advanced to the ALCS to play the Blue Jays.
BULLPEN PLAY IN GAME 1
With Indians starter Trevor Bauer lasting just 4.2 innings, the bullpen pitched around some trouble against Boston’s potent lineup and limited the Red Sox to just one run over 4.1 innings of relief in Game 1 last Thursday.
Sandy Leon, Boston’s catcher and No. 8 hitter, smashed a lead-off home run to center field and drew the Red Sox to within a run of the Indians, 4-3, in the top of the fifth inning.
Then, after Bauer got two straight outs, manager Terry Francona made the call to the bullpen for left-handed reliever Andrew Miller.
Despite infielder Brock Holt doubling to deep center field and right fielder Mookie Betts working his way to a walk following a seven-pitch at-bat after being down in the count, 1-2, Miller faced off and struck out one of the best hitters in postseason history, David Ortiz, to end the threat in the fifth and set the tone for the rest of the night for the bullpen.
POWER SURGE IN GAME 1
The Indians belted three solo home runs in the bottom of the third inning and took a 4-2 lead over the Red Sox in Game 1.
Down by a 2-1 count after Bauer gave up a solo home run in the top half of the inning, the Indians quickly got back even when catcher Roberto Perez, the No. 9 hitter in the lineup, took a 3-2 pitch from Boston starter Rick Porcello over the wall in right field.
Two batters later, second baseman Jason Kipnis smashed his first postseason home run over the wall in right field. Then, shortstop Francisco Lindor kept everyone in the park on their feet and celebrating when he belted his first career playoff home run.
KLUBER’S DOMINANCE IN GAME 2
Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber had not pitched in 10 days after straining a muscle in his right leg, but knowing that his bullpen had four-plus innings of work in Game 1 and with the rotation depleted because of injury, he pitched like the ace the team needed him to be in Game 2.
Over seven-plus innings of work, Kluber allowed just three hits and three walks against seven strikeouts and worked his way around multiple jams, each time closing the door on Boston on the way to a 6-0 win and 2-0 lead in the series.
The seven-inning outing came in Kluber’s first-ever postseason start, and it came against a Red Sox lineup loaded with power hitters. However, Kluber did not surrender an extra-base hit to Boston in the win.
INDIANS GOT TO DAVID PRICE
The Indians went 1-2-3 against Boston starter David Price in the first inning of Game 2, but in their second at-bat, they got to the 17-game winner, and plated four runs and took a 4-0 lead after two innings of play.
With one out in the inning, designated hitter Carlos Santana looped a single into left field for the Indians’ first hit, and base runner, of the game. Then, third baseman Jose Ramirez reached on an infield single that shortstop Xander Bogaerts was unable to handle.
Left fielder Brandon Guyer broke the scoreless tie when he popped a single into shallow center field out of the reach of the shortstop and in front of charging outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. Willing to test Bradley’s throwing arm, Santana rounded third and headed for home, but no throw came to the plate.
In addition to Santana scoring the run, Ramirez was able to go first to third on the single.
Right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall followed with the big hit of the inning when after taking a called strike, he smashed a 1-1 pitch from Price off of the foul pole in right field for a three-run home run, the Indians’ fourth round-tripper of the series.