History says the Cleveland Indians have already made the World Series; all that’s left is the final blow. Just don’t tell that to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Aaron Sanchez threw six innings of one-run ball and Josh Donaldson hit a home run and made a sparkling defensive play as the Blue Jays pulled away for a 5-1 win over the Indians in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on Tuesday. The Indians lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 with Game 5 set for 4 p.m. ET Wednesday in Toronto.

Facing Cleveland ace Corey Kluber, the Jays showed no signs of wilting. Kluber worked five innings while pitching on three days’ rest, giving up two runs on four hits and two walks while struggling with a high pitch count.

Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star highlighted the right-hander’s issues:

Donaldson broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the third inning with a 402-foot home run to left-center field. It was his first of this postseason, though the MVP candidate was 13-for-29 with six doubles and had been Toronto’s offensive anchor entering Tuesday.

Actor Stephen Amell thought it was Donaldson’s Rocky moment:

Donaldson finished the game 1-for-3 and was involved in two more critical moments that helped seal the game for Toronto. He made a diving stop on a hot shot off the bat of Carlos Santana that would have scored Cleveland’s second run in the fifth inning, preserving the Jays’ 2-1 lead.

Indians manager Terry Francona later made the decision to intentionally walk Donaldson to load the bases in the seventh inning, which backfired when the next batter, Edwin Encarnacion, hit a two-run single up the middle to make it 4-1. A number of analysts commented on Donaldson’s heroics and Francona’s decision:

Also helping the cause was Sanchez, who was borderline unhittable for most of the afternoon. The righty allowed just one run on two hits and two walks and struck out five before ceding the game to the bullpen, which did not allow a baserunner over three innings of work. Sanchez’s only real trouble came in the fifth, when Roberto Perez doubled home Coco Crisp, who had walked with one out.

Barry Davis of Sportsnet noted Sanchez was just the second pitcher in franchise history to pitch six or more innings and give up two or fewer hits in a playoff start. Brett Cecil, Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna each pitched an inning to close it out, with Cecil and Osuna recording two strikeouts apiece.

Encarnacion, Michael Saunders and Ezequiel Carrera each notched a pair of hits for Toronto, and Carrera’s eighth-inning triple set up Kevin Pillar’s sacrifice fly for the game’s final run. Carrera had singled in the fourth inning to account for Toronto’s second run.

The Jays offense, having scored three runs over the first three games, appeared back in form despite the continued struggles of Jose Bautista. Hitting leadoff, Bautista went 0-for-5. He is hitless in five of his last six games.

Bautista even seemed occupied with other matters after the game:

The Indians, meanwhile, have up to three more games to close the series. The 2004 Boston Red Sox are the only team in MLB history to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series.

Ryan Merritt will start Game 5 for Cleveland, while Marco Estrada will take the hill for Toronto. If the Blue Jays can send the series back to Ohio, the sweat might start piling up on the Indians’ brows.


Postgame Reaction

Grilli discussed the success of the bullpen with reporters: “We go about our business the same way, and it’s working. Our job is to put our hitters at the plate as much as possible. Keep the momentum on our side because I know we have every bit of confidence in them.

“If we do that, we’ve got a really good chance to win every ballgame.”

Donaldson talked about his message to teammates before the game, per the Associated Press (via the Guardian): “I’m not going to give too much away of what I had to say, but just more so getting everybody’s attention and focus and understanding. I mean, everybody knew coming into today how important today was. But at the same time, I just wanted to kind of reiterate that and let the boys know that I was coming to play today.”

Of his defensive gem, Donaldson said: “I was locked in. It helps when you have a guy like Sanchez in the zone, where you can really focus in on a certain area of the strike zone. And I was able to get a really good read off the bat, and I was fortunate enough to be able to make the play.”

Kluber said pitching on short rest didn’t affect him: “I felt fine. I don’t think it physically affected me. I made a mistake to Donaldson. We’re one win away from the World Series, and that’s what we’re focused on.”


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