Cleveland Indians Playoff History: Ryan Merritt rises to the occasion

In the long history of the Cleveland Indians there has only been one time a player wound up getting his wedding registry filled out. This is that game.

 But before we get started – let’s talk about Jose Bautista.

Once upon a time Jose Bautista was a very good hitter. He hit as many as 54 home runs in a season. He was an All Star six seasons in  a row (2010-2015).

But this was 2016. He was only slightly above average in the regular season. He had a home run against Baltimore and another against Texas in the playoffs, but the Cleveland Indians shut him down.

Note that I said “shut him down”, not “shut his mouth”.

After the Indians won Games 1 and 2 – behind Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin and a lot of help from Andrew Miller – Bautista said that circumstances were working against the Blue Jays. The Indians were getting calls to help them win, and reporters were ignoring it.

A quick look at the big three in the Blue Jays lineup, through two games:

So much for the conspiracy.

NOTE: A conspiracy theory isn’t necessarily stupid. I had a similar idea about the Red Sox before the start of the Boston series.

Saying it out loud is stupid.

 We’ll get back to Jose in a minute – now let’s talk about the Indians.

As noted, the Indians won Games 1 and 2 at home.

Then came Game 3 – not one of the top ten, but a memorable one nonetheless.

Trevor Bauer took the mound with a stitched up hand, thanks to a drone repair that went awry. The stitches held for four batters. Well, they sort of held. As the broadcast was all too willing to show, Bauer started bleeding almost immediately. After two walks and two outs it was starting to resemble Big Red. The Indians had to go to the bullpen, just like the Carlos Carrasco broken finger game in Detroit.

The end result was similar. Indians win. And we now have a three game to nil advantage.

The easy thing would have been for the Indians to just go ahead and win Game 4 behind Corey Kluber.

Unfortunately, Josh Donaldson and the Blue Jays had other ideas. Blue Jays 5, Indians 1.

Tito then names his Game 5 starter: Ryan Merritt.

Ryan Merritt was 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA in 2016. But that was accomplished in four games and one start.

His second career start would be Game 5 of the ALCS.

 We now pause for another stupid comment by Jose Bautista.

As the Indians prepared Merritt to the mound (he of the one career major league start), Bautista said “He’s probably shaking in his boots.”

Thinking that Merritt might be nervous in this situation is not stupid.

Saying it out loud is stupid.

 Back to the game – here are the highlights:

Top of the first: Lindor singles, Napoli doubles. 1-0.

Bottom of the first: Ground out, ground out, strikeout.

Bottom of the second: Fly out, strikeout, strikeout.

Top of the third: Solo home run by Santana. 2-0.

Bottom of the third: Fly out, ground out, pop out.

Top of the fourth: Solo home run by Coco Brips. 3-0.

Bottom of the fourth:  Fly out, single, double play.

Bottom of the fifth: Fly out, single and Merritt is done. The bullpen takes it from there.

After Merritt’s 4.1 shutout innings the Indians lit up Twitter. Trevor Bauer posted a picture of a boot with a champagne bottle in it. Corey Kluber posts a photo shopped picture of Merritt wearing Cowboy boots on the mound.

Jason Kipnis provided my favorite summary “This is why you don’t say stupid s***.”

Andrew Miller added 2.2 more scoreless innings to his collection.

And he also added the ALCS Most Valuable Player trophy to his collection.

Cleveland 3, Toronto 0.

After the NBA and MLB playoff beatings I wondered if Toronto hates Cleveland. Probably not.  We’re just too nice.

As if to prove how nice Cleveland people are – some fans found Ryan Merritt’s online wedding registry. The location spread through social media, and fans filled out the registry.

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Next: The legend of Sandy Alomar Jr.

Ryan Merritt is obviously one of the most talented baseball players on the planet. All major leaguers are. Yet in the ranks of the major leaguers, he was an average guy who made it big on the biggest stage. It’s a classic underdog story.