ALCS Game 5: Ryan Merritt pitches Indians to World Series

Chris Cwik

Experience doesn’t mean a thing. Cleveland Indians starter Ryan Merritt proved as much during Wednesday’s Game 5 start against the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series.

In just his second major-league start, Merritt turned in a fantastic performance during Cleveland’s 3-0 win, sending the Indians to their first World Series since 1997.

Merritt was masterful against a tough Toronto lineup, holding them to just two hits over 4 2/3 scoreless innings. He struck out three and didn’t issue any walks.

While Merritt’s start didn’t last all that long, that hasn’t really mattered during this series. Terry Francona turned things over to Cleveland’s fearsome bullpen in the fifth and, as usual, they combined for yet another excellent outing.

With the win, Cleveland will be looking for its first World Series championship since 1948.

Ryan Merritt didn't look like a rookie during Game 5 of the ALCS. (Getty Images/Elsa)
Ryan Merritt didn’t look like a rookie during Game 5 of the ALCS. (Getty Images/Elsa)

• Little was expected from Merritt during his second-ever major-league start, but he delivered in a big way. Merritt stymied Blue Jays hitters early, carrying a perfect game through 3 1/3 innings. Josh Donaldson broke that up with a single, but that didn’t seem to shake the 24-year-old rookie. He wound giving up just two hits over 4 2/3 innings against a powerful Blue Jays lineup. No bad for a guy who had 11 total innings in the majors coming into the start.

• Shortstop Francisco Lindor has been impressive all series, and that carried over to Wednesday’s game. Lindor got Cleveland going early with his first-inning single, and put the club ahead by scoring on Mike Napoli’s double later in the inning. He would later add a single in the third, and a double in the ninth. Lindor finished 3-for-4, with one run scored.

• Outfielder Coco Crisp only played six innings in this one, but he made a big impact. Crisp’s solo home run in the fourth inning extended Cleveland’s lead. He finished the night 1-for-2, with one run scored and one RBI. He may have been replaced by Rajai Davis in the seventh, but Crisp came through when it mattered.

Edwin Encarnacion didn't perform well during the ALCS. (Getty Images/Vaughn Ridley)
Edwin Encarnacion didn’t perform well during the ALCS. (Getty Images/Vaughn Ridley)

• Once again, the entire Blue Jays lineup deserves a spot here. Toronto managed just six hits during the game, and couldn’t muster any offense against the pitcher making his second-ever major-league start. Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki were probably the worst of the bunch. The two combined to go 0-for-8 at the plate, with two strikeouts.

• Jose Bautista was one of the few Blue Jays to actually get a hit in this one, but we’re putting him here based on his pre-game comments about Merritt. Bautista suggested the rookie should be scared to face Toronto’s lineup, and that one came back to bite him. It doesn’t help that Bautista went 0-for-2 against Merritt. If you’re going to talk a big game, you have to back it up.

With the Blue Jays down 3-0 in the sixth, Bautista attempted to start a rally with a one-out single off Bryan Shaw. That brought Josh Donaldson to the plate. With the Blue Jays finally threatening on the bases, Terry Francona called upon Andrew Miller to shut them down.

He did exactly that. Miller got Donaldson to ground into a double play on the first pitch he threw. The play was reviewed, but eventually upheld. It was the only moment during the game where it looked like Toronto had some life, and it was quickly extinguished by Miller. After the play, Rogers Centre was completely silent.

Wait a minute, can Cleveland actually do this? The Indians came into the postseason with an injury-riddled rotation, leading many to predict an early October exit. That hasn’t been the case. The Indians’ rotation certainly hasn’t been at full strength, but the team has gotten strong performances from Merritt and Josh Tomlin when needed. Oh, and the bullpen has been absolutely unreal. Will that magic carry over to the World Series? We’re about to find out.

On the Blue Jays side, this loss certainly seems like the end of an era in Toronto. Both Bautista and Encarnacion are free agents, and it’s unclear whether either will be back with the Blue Jays. After two straight trips to the ALCS, Toronto could feature a drastically different club next season.

Andrew Miller’s contributions during the series cannot be understated.

Coco Crisp has played an unlikely hero this October.

Cleveland is going to the World Series. That’s not a typo … that’s actually happening. Game 1 of the World Series will take place Tuesday, Oct. 25. The time of the contest has not been announced yet. Because the American League won the All-Star Game, Cleveland will host the game.

The Indians will take on the winner of the National League Championship Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers currently lead the Chicago Cubs in that series 2-1. Cleveland has not announced a starter for Game 1 of the World Series, but ace Corey Kluber seems like the logical choice.

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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