Bullpen great again, Indians top Blue Jays for 3-0 ALCS lead

TORONTO (AP) " Cleveland overcame the premature exit of its starting pitcher and won 4-2 at Toronto on Monday to move within one win of a place in the World Series.

Indians starter Trevor Bauer departed in the first inning when the stitches in the little finger of his pitching hand burst open and blood started streaming from the cut.

Six Indians relievers then combined to guide Cleveland to a victory that gives the Indians a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

Cleveland is now on the brink of its first AL pennant since 1997 and a step closer to ending its World Series winning drought that dates back to 1948.

Unbeaten in six playoff games, and with nine straight wins dating back to the regular season, Cleveland can complete its second consecutive series sweep on Tuesday.

The Blue Jays scored twice but could never take the lead, and when Jason Kipnis led off the sixth with a home run, Cleveland went up 3-2 and stayed in front.

The hard-hitting bats in the Toronto lineup have been largely dormant through the series, scoring just three runs in as many games.

"We felt like we had an opportunity with some of their lower-leverage guys coming out of the bullpen, but they've got good arms," Toronto outfielder Kevin Pillar said. "It makes it tough when you're facing a different guy every inning, every at-bat."

After Bauer left with two down in the first, the final 25 Toronto outs were distributed as follows among the Cleveland relievers: four each for Dan Otero and Jeff Manship, three for Zach McAllister, five each for Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen, and four for Andrew Miller.

"The bullpen was unbelievable," Bauer said. "Co-MVP to everybody."

Allen, who usually closes, came on in the seventh with a runner on base and nobody out. After recording two outs, he walked Jose Bautista to add to the threat, but Coco Crisp took a sliding catch of a Josh Donaldson liner to left field, ending the inning.

Miller, who struck out 10 in just 3-2/3 innings across the first two games of the series, fanned three more this time and earned the save. It ended when Darwin Barney ground out with a runner on base, thanks to an off-balance throw by Kipnis which just beat him to first.

Mike Napoli entered 2 for 18 this postseason and in an 0-for-25 slump against right-handed pitchers dating to the regular season, but drove in the opening run in the first inning. Napoli's long fly popped out of Bautista's glove before both the ball and Bautista bounced off the wall in right field.

Bauer made it through only 21 pitches in the bottom of the inning. He'd been pushed back two days to Game 3 after cutting his finger last week repairing one of the drones he enjoys flying as a hobby.

"Trevor got a little leak," Kipnis said. "A couple of us had seen the wound kind of inside and knew it was a possibility of happening. He can deal with the pain, but it's getting something like that to close up. It's hard to do in a short amount of time."

It's yet another injury problem for a Cleveland team that couldn't include starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar on its ALCS roster. Even with the Indians up 3-0, their rotation for the rest of this series is a concern, with ace Corey Kluber coming back for Game 4 (and presumably any Game 7) on short rest and lightly used rookie Ryan Merritt lined up for Game 5.

Michael Saunders tied it for Toronto with a solo homer in the second, matching the scoring total by the Blue Jays over the first two games in Cleveland. Napoli's solo homer in the fourth put the Indians up 2-1, but Ezequiel Carrera led off the Blue Jays fifth with a triple and scored to tie it on a grounder by Ryan Goins.

Kipnis answered with his first hit of the series, a home run that put Cleveland back ahead. And after Napoli drew a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch, Jose Ramirez drove him in to pad the lead.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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