ALCS Game 4: Blue Jays keep hope alive with big win over Indians

Chris Cwik

The Toronto Blue Jays aren’t dead just yet. For the first time all series, the Blue Jays showed they had some life, taking down the Cleveland Indians 5-1 in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

With the season on the line, Aaron Sanchez gave the Blue Jays exactly what they needed. Sanchez turned in six strong innings, leaving the game with a narrow 2-1 lead.

While Cleveland’s bullpen has been fantastic the first three games, it finally showed some cracks in Game 4. The Blue Jays tagged on two insurance runs in the seventh, extending their lead. Toronto would tack on an additional run in the eighth.

This time around, it was Toronto’s bullpen that got to shine. Brett Cecil, Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna combined to give the Blue Jays three perfect innings of work.

Aaron Sanchez came through when the Blue Jays needed him the most. (Getty Images/Elsa)
Aaron Sanchez came through when the Blue Jays needed him the most. (Getty Images/Elsa)

• With Toronto’s back against the wall, Aaron Sanchez delivered a strong start. The 24-year-old righty didn’t give up a hit until the third inning, and had the Indians hacking at his curveball all game. He gave up just one run on two hits over six strong innings. Sanchez struck out five.

• The only member of the Blue Jays to bring his bat to this series has been Josh Donaldson, and that continued Tuesday. Donaldson’s third inning blast helped put Toronto on the board against Corey Kluber. It was Donaldson’s only hit of the game, but it proved to be a big one. Donaldson also made an excellent diving play at third to end the fifth inning.

• Ezequiel Carerra also turned in a strong game. Carerra’s fourth-inning single scored Troy Tulowitzki from second, extending Toronto’s lead. Then, in the eighth, Carerra smacked a triple to center and scored on a sac fly later in the frame. He finished 2-for-4, with one run scored and one RBI.

• The Blue Jays bullpen deserves a ton of credit for shutting down the Indians in this one. Cecil, Grilli and Osuna gave Toronto three perfect innings. They combined for four strikeouts. In a series dominated by Cleveland’s relievers, Toronto finally got an opportunity to show off its skills.

• The Indians only had two hits during the contest, so it seems fair to put every single offensive player in here. The club’s top of the order hitters struggled the most of that group, though. Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor combined to go 0-for-12 with three strikeouts.

• It took four games, but one member of the Indians’ bullpen finally looked vulnerable. Bryan Shaw had a rough seventh inning. After giving up a single to open the frame, Shaw committed a throwing error that put men on second and third. After Josh Donaldson was intentionally walked, Shaw gave up a one-out single to Edwin Encarnacion that scored two runs.

With the bases loaded in the seventh inning, Edwin Encarnacion delivered a clutch single that plated two runs for Toronto. The hit was huge for a number of reasons. It not only extended the Blue Jays’ lead, but it proved that the Indians’ relievers were actually mortal.

Josh Donaldson put the Blue Jays on the board early in Game 4 of the ALCS. (Getty Images/Tom Szczerbowski)
Josh Donaldson put the Blue Jays on the board early in Game 4 of the ALCS. (Getty Images/Tom Szczerbowski)

Can Toronto become the second team ever to come back from a 3-0 deficit? The odds are certainly against them, but it seems possible. With Kluber unable to pitch for a few days, the Indians will have to rely on some unknowns in the rotation. That includes Trevor Bauer, who left Monday’s start early due to a cut on his finger. On top of that, it’s tough to expect Cleveland’s relievers to keep dominating as the series goes deeper and their workloads build up.

Josh Donaldson’s home run in the third inning gave the Blue Jays their first lead of the entire series.

Ezequiel Carerra has turned into a triples machine.

The Blue Jays have forced Game 5. The contest will take place Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 4:00 p.m. ET at Rogers Centre. Marco Estrada (9-9, 3.48 ERA) will take the mound for Toronto. He’ll be opposed by Ryan Merritt (1-0, 1.64 ERA), who has just one career major-league start on his resume.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik