The Cleveland Indians are just one win away from a trip to the World Series.
Game Three of the American League Championship Series went exactly the way the Cleveland Indians scripted it. Trevor Bauer overcame his freak pinky finger laceration to give the Tribe six solid innings before turning over it to the bullpen, and there was plenty of run support to win the day. Cleveland fans didn’t have to sweat a bit. Right?
If only that was how things had played out. The Indians overcame Bauer’s exit just four batters into the game to claim a 4-2 victory and a commanding 3-0 lead in the ALCS over the Blue Jays. The bullpen was once again masterful, and the duo of Mike Napoli and Jason Kipnis finally broke out of their slumps just enough to get the job done.
The Tribe is now just one win away from its first trip to the World Series in 19 years. Let that sink in for a moment.
The Drone Wars
By now, everyone knows about the injury Bauer sustained repairing one of his drones, and all laughs aside, this could have sunk Cleveland in Game Three. The laceration on his right pinky broke open after facing three batters, leaving a national television audience to have to look away from their screens.
Bauer recorded only two outs before being forced to leave the game because of the injury. We’ll have more on just how the Indians’ bullpen managed to stitch the rest of the game together (pun intended), but suffice it to say, they rose to the challenge.
MFN Must Read WOF
On Monday morning, Wahoo’s on First ran this little article saying that Mike Napoli really needed to step up once the series shifted to Toronto. Apparently, in between parties, he does, because the Tribe’s cleanup hitter came through in a big way on Monday night.
Napoli had been a dismal .111/.111/.167 after collecting just two hits in 18 at-bats in the first five games of the postseason, but accounted for three of Cleveland’s four runs in this one thanks to an RBI double, a solo home run, and some heads up baserunning that resulted in an easy jog from second base on a Jose Ramirez single that.
All season long, Napoli’s success at the plate has come in surges, so his breakout performance in Game Three bodes well. After a September that saw him slump to the tune of a 140/.289/.323 slash line, the Indians need their right-handed power bat™ to produce like he did during the dog days of the summer.
So Many Stats
Here’s a rundown of different accomplishments for the Tribe during Game Three, because only bullet points can contain them:
- First team in MLB history to win a postseason game without having any pitcher record more than five outs.
- Second American League team in the last 80 years to win a postseason game in which their starter didn’t finish the first inning. The other was the Indians in the 1998 ALDS (after Dwight Gooden was ejected).
- Jose Bautista (of #circumstances fame), Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki, and Russell Martin are a combined 5-for-42 with 0 RBIs in the series.
- Cleveland has now gone 19 days without a loss, and is just the fifth team in MLB history to start the postseason 6-0.
- Every team that has knocked the Blue Jays out of the playoffs in their franchise’s history has gone on to win the World Series. That includes the 1985 Kansas City Royals, 1989 Oakland Athletics, 1991 Minnesota Twins, and the Royals again last season.
The series isn’t over yet, of course, and no one ever knows what could happen in the playoffs. But the Indians are sitting a mere one game away from reaching a point few, if any, outside of Cleveland would have given them a chance of just two short weeks ago. The Tribe has thrived against the doubters and the haters all season long, so what’s one more win?