TORONTO -- The Cleveland Indians’ American League Championship Series-clinching celebration will have to wait for another day.
The Indians’ bats went cold against Toronto Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez, and when the 15-game winner in the regular season turned things over to the bullpen, the relief combination of Brett Cecil, Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna did not allow a base runner over three innings of work.
Conversely, the Indians’ pitching staff surrendered nine hits and five runs, four of which were earned, and allowed four walks. The Blue Jays used clutch hitting from Michael Saunders, Edwin Encarnacion and Ezequiel Carrera to stave off elimination with a 5-1 win in Game 4 of the ALCS at Rogers Centre Tuesday.
Despite suffering their first loss of the postseason, the Indians hold a commanding 3-1 lead in the ALCS, and their next win will clinch a World Series berth for the first time since 1997.
Corey Kluber and the Indians were just one strike away from getting out of the third inning in a scoreless tie with the Blue Jays in Game 4, but in front of the home fans, reigning A.L. MVP Josh Donaldson had other ideas.
On a 2-2 pitch from Kluber with two out after swinging third strikes from Ryan Goins and Jose Bautista, Donaldson belted his first postseason home run over the wall in left field. Donaldson’s home run was the first run given up by Kluber during three starts this postseason.
The Donaldson homer gave the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead, which marked the first time since Game 1 of the Division Series against the Boston Red Sox that the Indians did not score before their opponents.
The Blue Jays are not known for their patience at the plate, but that virtue is exactly what they displayed against Kluber in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki drew a four-pitch walk and catcher Russell Martin followed by fouling off a pair of throws after getting two strikes on him to earn a free pass, which put two runners on with nobody out in the inning.
After Kluber struck out Saunders swinging on just three pitches, Carrera popped a single into center field and brought around Tulowitzki for Toronto’s second run of the game.
Although Carrera drove in the one run, Kluber settled in and struck out center fielder Kevin Pillar and Goins swinging to strand a pair of Blue Jays base runners and keep the deficit at 2-0.
Despite having just one hit over the first four innings of play against the Blue Jays, the Indians broke through with an RBI in their fifth trip to the plate.
Batting with two outs and left fielder Coco Crisp on second base after walking and advancing on a wild pitch from Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez, catcher Roberto Perez belted a double off the base of the wall in left-center field and drove in the Indians’ first run of the game.
Perez’s second run-producing hit in the postseason cut the Blue Jays’ lead in half, down to 2-1.
The Indians looked as though they may even the score when designated hitter Carlos Santana hit a sharp ground ball to the left side of the infield. However, Donaldson made a diving stop in the hole near shortstop and fired a throw to first for the final out of the inning.
Indians reliever Brian Shaw has had his struggles at points during the 2016 season, and they popped up again at an inopportune time for the set-up man and his team against the Blue Jays in the seventh inning of Game 4.
Ahead in the count, 1-2, against Goins, a bottom-of-the-order hitter for the Blue Jays, Shaw surrendered a lead-off single to left field in the bottom of the seventh inning. Then, Bautista reached base on an errant throw from Shaw that ended up in foul territory.
After intentionally walking Donaldson to load the bases with no outs, Encarnacion smashed a single up the middle and into center field, driving in Goins and Bautista before Donaldson was thrown out at third base.
Although Mike Clevinger relieved Shaw and got two groundouts to end the inning, the Blue Jays extended their lead over the Indians to 4-1.
The Blue Jays added an insurance run on an RBI sacrifice fly from Pillar in the bottom of the eighth inning.