The Cleveland Indians again relied on their bullpen in Game 3, earning a 4-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays to build a 3-0 lead in the American League Championship Series on Monday.

Starting pitcher Trevor Bauer was removed after recording just two outs, but six relievers combined to throw 8.1 innings, allowing only two runs.

Jason Lukehart of Let’s Go Tribe provided an incredible stat from Cleveland’s victory:

The Indians are one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 1997.

Bauer’s early exit was the big story of the game after a pinkie finger injury he suffered while repairing a drone pushed his start back from Game 2 to Game 3. The cut turned out to be more serious than expected, and his stitches opened a couple of batters into the contest, causing the finger to bleed all over the mound.

Buster Olney of ESPN The Magazine described the situation:

Fox Sports provided a gruesome image (warning: NSFW) of Bauer’s finger as he exited the game.

Bauer walked two batters and recorded two outs before Dan Otero found a way to get out of the first-inning jam. Cleveland was then forced to piece together innings from its bullpen for the rest of the night, although manager Terry Francona came prepared.

In addition to using a wide variety of relievers throughout the game, Francona asked closer Cody Allen to pitch in the seventh inning for the first time since 2014, per ESPN Stats & Info. Allen came through with 1.2 hitless innings.

Andrew Miller then followed with a four-out save featuring three strikeouts.

Jordan Bastian of summed up Cleveland’s mindset:

Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman couldn’t keep up, allowing four earned runs in 5.1 innings.

Mike Napoli sparked the Indians offense Monday. He got Cleveland on the board with an RBI double off Jose Bautista’s glove in the first inning and followed that up with a solo home run in the fourth.

Paul Hoynes of described the veteran’s confidence:

Napoli was 2-for-18 in the playoffs coming into the day but finished 2-for-3 with a walk, two runs and two RBI.

Toronto again struggled to generate much offense, although Michael Saunders did his part with a solo home run in the second inning.

Bleacher Report’s Zachary D. Rymer described the big hit:

The blast got the home fans excited, but the Blue Jays didn’t score again until the fifth, when Ezequiel Carrera hit a triple into the right-center field gap and eventually came around to score on a Ryan Goins groundout.

Eric Engels of Sportsnet praised the left fielder as Toronto evened the score at 2:

The tie didn’t last long, however, as Jason Kipnis drilled a solo home run to right, giving Cleveland a 3-2 lead in the sixth and knocking Stroman out of the game. Napoli then continued his great showing with heads-up baserunning after getting on with a walk. He advanced on a wild pitch before scoring on a Jose Ramirez RBI single.

Jerry Crasnick of summed up the difference for the key players in Cleveland’s lineup:

The Blue Jays had a chance to cut into the lead with two runners on base in the seventh inning against Allen, but Josh Donaldson’s line drive ended up in Coco Crisp’s glove.

Toronto got the first runner aboard in the ninth inning but couldn’t do anything else as Miller closed out the 4-2 win.

After Toronto scored 27 runs in its first four games of the postseason, Cleveland has limited the Blue Jays to three runs in the ALCS.

The teams will return to action Tuesday for Game 4. Corey Kluber is set to take the mound on three days of rest for the Indians after tallying 13.1 scoreless innings in his first two postseason starts. Aaron Sanchez is scheduled to make his first start of the series for Toronto after allowing six runs in his only other playoff start this year.


Postgame Reaction

Francona has excelled this postseason at using his bullpen in creative ways, but getting a win after replacing the starter in the first inning was impressive even for this team. Still, it wasn’t exactly the plan, per Erik Boland of Newsday:

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays aren’t ready to give up despite being down 3-0 in the series.

“I still believe our offense is due to erupt,” manager John Gibbons said, per the Associated Press (via USA Today). “It hasn’t happened yet. But I’ve seen it too many times. Hopefully tomorrow is that day, we’ll see.”

Of course, breaking out against Kluber will not be an easy task Tuesday.


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