The Cleveland Indians are four wins away from giving Cleveland a second professional sports championship in 2016 after going 52 years without one.
With a 3-0 win over the Blue Jays Wednesday in Game 5 of the best-of-seven AL Championship Series in Toronto, the Indians will now host either the Cubs or Dodgers in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, the same night the Cavaliers are scheduled to receive their championship rings.
Cleveland hit a pair of home runs and an RBI double to chase Marco Estrada out of the game after six innings. As we've become accustomed to seeing, the Tribe bullpen shut down the Jays bats after 4 1/3 scoreless innings from Ryan Merritt to secure the win.
Here are three takeaways from Cleveland's win:
1. Merritt wasn't "shaking in his boots." Toronto slugger Jose Bautista said after Game 4's win that with the Jays experience in the lineup, Merritt would "be shaking in his boots more than we are." As it turned out, the 24-year-old southpaw, who was making his first postseason start after making just one start in the regular season, wasn't fazed at all by the pressure. Merritt faced one batter over the minimum after exiting in the fifth inning, allowing just two hits with no walks and three strikeouts.
2. Indians' bullpen trio unbeatable. The Indians are now 5-0 this postseason and 11-0 this year when relievers Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen all appear in a game. The star of the trio of course is Miller, who got eight Jays outs in relief on just 21 pitches. The likely ALCS MVP now has 14 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings pitched this series with three hits allowed without a run scored. A lot of credit goes to manager Terry Francona for his unconventional use of his bullpen. With the win, Francona moved into seventh on the all-time manager postseason victories list with 35, passing Sparky Anderson.
3. Estrada's fly-ball tenancies catch up with him. Only Drew Smyly and Hector Santiago had a higher fly-ball percentage than Estrada in the regular season and the propensities followed him into Game 5 as the right-hander forced only one groundout in six innings. Unfortunately for the Jays, Estrada's fly balls were traveling further than he's used to off the bat of Carlos Santana (solo homer), Coco Crisp (solo homer), and Mike Napoli (RBI double to the warning track). Despite hurling a complete game in Game 1's loss, Estrada was saddled with another loss Wednesday as Toronto bats failed to give him any run support for 14 consecutive innings.
Santana and Crisp gave the Indians 11 home runs in eight postseason games.
World Series Game 1: Dodgers/Cubs at Indians, Tuesday time TBA on Fox — Corey Kluber will likely take the ball for the Indians, who hold home-field advantage in the series thanks to an AL All-Star Game victory. Kluber saw a personal 15 1/3-inning postseason scoreless streak come to an end following a homer by Josh Donaldson in Game 4. The streak now stands as the second-longest scoreless streak in Cleveland postseason history.