TORONTO -- So often in any postseason competition, it is all hands on deck just to make it to the next day, and the Cleveland Indians personified that against the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre Monday night.
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 a 4-2 win over the Blue Jays.
With the win over the Blue Jays, the Indians hold a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series and are just one victory away from clinching their first World Series berth since 1997.
Although the pitching staff limited the Blue Jays to just two earned runs over 8.1 innings of work, they got some help from the offense, particularly first baseman Mike Napoli, who went two for three with two runs scored and a pair of RBI in the win, Cleveland’s sixth straight this postseason.
The Indians wasted little time in building a lead against the Toronto 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 stepped into the batter’s box.
Hitting just .111 in his previous five playoff games, Napoli smashed a pitch to deep right field. The ball caromed off the glove of Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, and as Napoli was hustling to second, Santana sprinted all the way around from first to plate the Indians’ first run of the game.
The Blue Jays needed just three pitches and one swing of the bat in the bottom of the second inning to draw even with the Indians.
With the count even at 1-1 against Indians reliever Dan Otero, Blue Jays designated hitter Michael Saunders dropped the barrel of the bat on the ball and drove it over the wall in left field for his first home run of the postseason, and Toronto’s first round-tripper of the ALCS.
Saunders’ blast tied the score at 1-1.
Just as he did in his first at-bat, Napoli gave the Indians a one-run lead over the Blue Jays in his next 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 Stroman 428 feet and 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 three hits in 18 previous at-bats this postseason before Monday’s game.
The Indians took a 4-2 lead over the Blue Jays with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth inning.
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 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.
PHOTOS: Check out our gallery from the Tribe's Game 3 ALCS victory: