TORONTO -- It has been a true team effort to get the Cleveland Indians to this point, where one more win over the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series will send them to the World Series for the first time since 1997.
Despite adversity in the form of injuries to key players, specifically outfielder Michael Brantley and catcher Yan Gomes, and members of the starting rotation, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, the Indians won the American League Central Division Championship, swept through the Boston Red Sox in the Division Series and have a 3-0 lead over the Blue Jays with four chances to close out the ALCS.
Here are four reasons how the Indians got the 4-2 win over the Blue Jays in Game 3 and put themselves in position to clinch today.
BULLPEN PITCHING LEADS THE WAY
With starting pitcher Trevor Bauer able to go just two-thirds of an inning because of a laceration on his right pinkie finger, the Indians used six pitchers out of the bullpen, and they combined to strike out eight batters in the win over the Blue Jays.
Although Cody Allen has been the closer all season, Indians manager Terry Francona called on him in the seventh, and he responded by striking out two batters and surrendering only one walk over his 1.2 innings of work.
Then, left-hander Andrew Miller came into the game and struck out three batters over 1.1 innings to earn his first career postseason save.
NAPOLI BREAKS OUT OF SLUMP
The Indians wasted little time in building a lead against the Blue Jays in Game 3 of the ALCS.
In their first at-bat, the Indians pushed across a run and took a 1-0 lead before the Blue Jays even came to the plate for the first time.
Designated hitter Carlos Santana drew a lead-off walk on just five pitches from Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman, and after second baseman Jason Kipnis and shortstop Francisco Lindor lined out and struck out swinging, respectively, Napoli smashed an RBI double to right field.
Just as he did in his first at-bat, Napoli gave the Indians a one-run lead over the Blue Jays in his second plate appearance.
Down in the count, 0-1, after taking a called strike on the first pitch of the inning, Napoli belted an offering from starter Marcus Stroman over the wall in center field for a home run. Napoli’s first home run this postseason gave the Indians a 2-1 lead over the Blue Jays.
Napoli had just two hits in 18 previous at-bats this postseason before Monday’s game.
KIPNIS JOINS NAPOLI’S PARTY
The Indians took a 4-2 lead over the Blue Jays with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth inning.
Second baseman Jason Kipnis got things rolling for the Indians when he smashed a 2-2 pitch from Stroman into Cleveland’s bullpen in right field. The 421-foot blast was Kipnis’ second homer of the postseason and first of the ALCS.
Two batters later, Napoli drew a walk that chased Stroman from the game. Then, on a pitch in the dirt from reliever Joe Biagini, Napoli moved into scoring position. On Biagini’s next pitch, third baseman Jose Ramirez looped a single into short right field, and that brought around Napoli for the Indians’ fourth run of the game.
CRISP CATCH IN LEFT
The Blue Jays threatened to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Center fielder Kevin Pillar led off with a single to right field, and then, stole second two batters later. Right fielder Jose Bautista drew a walk from Allen, and third baseman Josh Donaldson smoked a line drive to left field. However, Indians outfielder Coco Crisp made a diving basket catch against his body for the final out of the inning.