The Cleveland Indians defeated the Toronto Blue Jays Wednesday in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series to advance to the World Series. With the 3-0 win, Cleveland won their first American League pennant since 1997.
The Indians started rookie pitcher Ryan Merritt against the Blue Jays’ veteran, Marco Estrada. “With our experience and our lineup, I’m pretty sure he’s going to be shaking in his boots more than we are,” Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista said Tuesday according to the New York Times.
However, Merritt owned the night, starting for the second time in his career. Merritt’s 11 innings pitched in the majors prior to this game are the fewest of anyone to pitch a potential clinching game in the postseason.
Merritt retired the first ten batters he faced in his 4 1/3 shutout innings. Giving up no walks, he struck out three in his two-hit performance.“Before the game, they came and told me they had my back, everybody had my back, good or bad,” Merritt said per ESPN. “So that takes some pressure off, and I just went out there and pitched and trusted my team.”
“He seemed to make the right pitches at the right time,” Bautista said following the loss.”Hats off to him.”
Cleveland struck in the first inning when Toronto left fielder Ezequiel Carrera bobbled a Mike Napoli double off the outfield wall, allowing Francisco Lindor to score from first base on the error. The scoring continued in the third inning with Carlos Santana’s 413 foot home run to
right field. Coco Crisp followed suit in the fourth frame with a solo shot to right. All three runs came at the hands of Estrada in his six-inning effort. Lindor’s run was unearned. Estrada received the loss, despite striking out seven and walking none.
After the Indians’ second baseman Jason Kipnis and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall nearly collided while chasing a Russell Martin bloop single, Bryan Shaw relieved Merritt. Shaw’s scoreless inning earned him his second win of the playoffs. Andrew Miller succeeded Shaw, pitching 2 2/3 shutout innings. He has yet to surrender a run in 20 career postseason innings. Miller won ALCS MVP for his 7 2/3 innings while striking out 14 batters in the series. “I would have given up 100 runs if we won 101-100,” Miller said of the honor, according to The Washington Post. “That’s all that matters is we’re going to the World Series.”
Although Miller said he would be content with allowing 100 runs so long as they won, the Blue Jays couldn’t muster any offense. “[We were] never able to string some hits together,” Martin said per the Toronto Sun. “You can point the finger at us and say we didn’t do a good job or you can point the finger at those guys. To get us out you, have to pitch well and they did.” While the Blue Jays’ season is over, the Indians will host either the Chicago Cubs or the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday in Game 1 of the World Series. Cleveland holds home-field advantage for the Series. The Indians have not won a World Series since 1948. Cleveland’s last appearance came in 1997 and featured a ninth-inning blown save in the 11 inning Game seven loss.