Ryan Merritt became something of a Cleveland sports legend for his efforts in the 2016 American League Championship Series.
After almost being left off the ALCS roster and mocked by the Toronto Blue Jays and media alike following his selection to make the Game 5 start, Merritt allowed just two hits and no walks with three strikeouts over 4.1 innings of work against a lineup with plenty of pop, and his efforts led to the clinching of the team’s first World Series berth in 19 years.
This season, Merritt continues to display that same kind of professionalism, being effective in spot starts for the Indians, and doing so well that he earned the right to remain with the team when the rosters expanded on Friday.
“This is the one time we don’t have to send him back, and good for him,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He actually walked two, which you don’t see very often, but he just pounds the zone with whatever he’s throwing, whether it’s an 84-mile-an-hour fastball and an 83-mile-an-hour changeup or a breaking ball.
“I thought he actually threw some good breaking balls, but he doesn’t back off, and there’s obviously some deception there with all of the movement and some things he’s doing, but he just attacks the zone.”
Just like the first game of their traditional doubleheader at Yankee Stadium Wednesday, the Indians started fast offensively, pitched well throughout and limited the effectiveness of a powerful New York Yankees offense.
On the strength of an early four-run advantage, the Indians earned a 9-4 victory over the Yankees, which completed both the doubleheader and three-game series sweep in The Bronx, New York.
Merritt scattered five hits, two walks and one earned run over 5.1 innings of work on the way to his second victory of the season, and the Indians’ first three-game sweep of the Yankees in New York since 1989.
“We didn’t have that bullpen in the second game, but Merritt did a very good job and got us to a point in the game where we know Smitty’s (Joe Smith) sitting out there, and he did a really good job,” Francona said. “Breslow came in and got some outs. Everybody did a really good job.”
Over five games for the Indians this season, including four starts, Merritt has posted a 2-0 record with a 1.74 earned run average. Over 20.2 innings of work, Merritt has allowed 26 hits and four walks, but only four earned runs.
And according to Francona, his presence has always been welcomed in the locker room because of the consistency he brings on the mound, which will come in handy for the Indians as they close in on their second consecutive AL Central Division Championship.
“Merritt’s done a really good job for us,” Francona said. “He’s handled these spot starts where you’re up for a day and you go back. When he comes through the door, everybody’s glad to see him. You know he’s going to throw strikes, which is a really good thing to have, especially in these spot start types of things.”
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