Five Performances that Propelled the Cleveland Indians to the World Series

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Oct 19, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Ryan Merritt (54) pitches during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays in game five of the 2016 ALCS playoff baseball series at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 19, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Ryan Merritt (54) pitches during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays in game five of the 2016 ALCS playoff baseball series at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Backstop and the Bullpen

Oct 15, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Andrew Miller (24) high fives catcher Roberto Perez (55) after the 8th inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during game two of the 2016 ALCS playoff baseball series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Andrew Miller (24) high fives catcher Roberto Perez (55) after the 8th inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during game two of the 2016 ALCS playoff baseball series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

It may be hard to remember, but Cleveland’s playoff run began with a deficit. The Boston Red Sox began Game One of the ALDS with a double from Dustin Pedroia and a single by Brock Holt off starter Trevor Bauer to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Hanley Ramirez then delivered doubled to score Pedroia, but what happened next set the tone for the rest of the game.

Tyler Naquin fielded the ball, hit Francisco Lindor at the cutoff, and the throw came home as Holt raced around third. It was slightly off line, but Roberto Perez gave an incredible effort to come up the line and swipe the tag. After a review, Holt was out and the Boston threat was over.

Perez would factor into the outcome of the game twice more, on his way to becoming the unlikely hero. On the first pitch he saw from Red Sox starter Rick Porcello, he smacked an opposite field home run to tie the game. That shot ignited the offense, as Jason Kipnis and Lindor would follow with longballs of their own in the inning.

The Indians’ backstop also made a play with his feet, tagging up from first and chugging into second on a Carlos Santana flyball to left field, and then scoring on a Kipnis single.

Perez had a front row seat to the night’s other unforgettable performance as well, as manager Terry Francona orchestrated his bullpen to perfection and the pair of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen turned in gritty performances to secure the win.

The 6-foot-7 frame of Miller has loomed over the entire postseason like a mythic beast of destruction, so much so that he was named MVP of the ALCS. But his two innings in this one set the tone for what was to come, as he entered in the fifth inning, threw 40 pitches, and dominated Boston’s hitters.

Allen followed with 40 pitches and two innings of his own for the save, as the Indians held on for the 5-4 victory. It was not the last tight spot that the two back-end relief aces would be thrown into, nor the last in which they would answer the call.

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