Everything the Cleveland Indians could have asked for was at their disposal Saturday, except their intended starting pitcher, Trevor Bauer.
There were 37,870 fans — including LeBron James and some of his Cavaliers teammates, and former Indian Kenny Lofton — at a sold-out Progressive Field on a perfect autumn afternoon. Cleveland’s elite bullpen was ready to go to work. And Francisco Lindor, the Indians’ 22-year-old spark-plug shortstop, was batting third.
Even if the formula required swapping ingredients — Josh Tomlin for Bauer, who was scratched from his start because of an injured pinkie — it propelled the Indians to a crisp 2-1 victory over the slumping Toronto Blue Jays in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, less than 24 hours after Cleveland’s shutout win in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series.
Carlos Santana, the Indians’ designated hitter, lined a second-inning home run off Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ, and Lindor had two hits and drove in a run. Lindor, whose two-run homer in Game 1 provided that game’s only runs, also made a terrific jump throw from the hole at shortstop.
The Indians have never won the first two games of an ALCS, which they have reached five times beginning in 1995. And those victories bode well for the future: Only three of the past 27 teams that surged ahead by 2-0 in a league championship series failed to advance to the World Series.
Now the Indians, a team that was not highly regarded after spring training, are two wins from a chance to win their first World Series since 1948. Game 3 is Monday in Toronto, where the Blue Jays must hope that the vocal support in Rogers Centre will enliven their moribund bats.
And while it was the Indians who scored more runs (777) than the Blue Jays (759) during the regular season, it is Toronto that carries the reputation of a terrifying lineup with Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista at its heart. But they could muster only one hit Saturday.
The last time the Blue Jays looked this ineffective was Sept. 17 and 18 while they played the Angels in Anaheim, scoring only one run in those two games.
They had come to life in early October. Toronto won its first four games of the postseason — and its last two regular-season games — by outslugging its opponents. But the Blue Jays did not score in Game 1, with Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen combining to throw a shutout.
Tomlin pitched very well into the sixth inning Saturday after Bauer, Cleveland’s No. 2 pitcher, could not make his scheduled start because he injured his right pinkie while working on a drone.
Coming off an impressive performance against the Boston Red Sox in the division series Game 3, Tomlin kept the normally potent Blue Jays lineup off balance and searching for its absent offensive punch.
Bryan Shaw relieved Tomlin for one batter in the sixth, and Miller struck out the side in the seventh: Russell Martin, Melvin Upton Jr. and Kevin Pillar all went down swinging.
When Miller returned to the mound in the eighth, Darwin Barney swung and missed for strike three before a Blue Jays batter finally put the ball in play. Ezequiel Carrera grounded out to second baseman Jason Kipnis, however, before Miller struck out Donaldson to end with two perfect innings and five strikeouts.
Allen retired the Blue Jays in order in the ninth, and the crowd erupted when he struck out Encarnacion and Bautista — both capable of tying the score with one swing — for the first two outs. Troy Tulowitzki flied out to center for the final out.
After being held scoreless in Game 1, Toronto was desperate for any kind of offensive spark. But Donaldson had Toronto’s only big hit, a run-scoring, two-out double in the third inning.
With one out, Barney singled up the middle against Tomlin. Carrera hit a ground ball for the second out, pushing Barney to second base. Then Donaldson laced a ball down the right-field line, scoring Barney.
After Tomlin walked Encarnacion, Indians manager Terry Francona began warming up his bullpen, but Tomlin escaped potential trouble by striking out Bautista on a wicked sinker to end the inning.
It did not take long for the Indians to reclaim the lead and for their fans to reclaim their voices. In the bottom of the third, Rajai Davis, the former Blue Jays outfielder, reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second base and went to third on a wild pitch.
With two outs, Lindor drove a single into center field, scoring Davis and giving Cleveland the lead. As slim as the lead was, Cleveland’s pitchers made it stand.
After walking Bautista with two outs in the sixth, Tomlin was taken out for Shaw. Tomlin walked off the field to a loud ovation after allowing only the lone run and three hits in 52⁄3 innings.
Shaw, too, did his job by retrieving a bouncing ball off the bat of Tulowitzki and tossing it underhanded to Mike Napoli at first base to end the inning. Then it was time for Miller and Allen, and a relaxed flight to Canada.
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Carrera lf 4 0 0 0 Davis cf 4 1 0 0
Dnldsn 3b 4 0 1 1 Kipnis 2b 4 0 0 0
Encrncn 1b 3 0 0 0 Lindor ss 4 0 2 1
Butist rf 3 0 0 0 Napoli 1b 3 0 0 0
Tulwtzk ss 4 0 0 0 Santana dh 2 1 1 1
Martin c 3 0 1 0 Ramirez 3b 3 0 0 0
Saundrs dh 2 0 0 0 Guyer lf 3 0 0 0
UptonJr ph 1 0 0 0 Chsnhll rf 3 0 1 0
Pillar cf 3 0 0 0 Perez c 2 0 0 0
Barney 2b 3 1 1 0
Totals 30 1 3 1 Totals 28 2 4 2
Toronto 001 000 000 — 1
Cleveland 011 000 00x — 2
E—Happ 1. LOB—Cleveland 4, Toronto 4. 2B—Donaldson (6). HR—C.Santana (1). SB—R.Davis (1).
IP H R ER BB SO
Happ L, 1-1 5 4 2 2 1 4
Biagini 2 0 0 0 1 2
Osuna 1 0 0 0 0 0
Tomlin W,2-0 5 2-3 3 1 1 2 6
B.Shaw H, 3 1-3 0 0 0 0 0
A.Miller H, 3 2 0 0 0 0 5
Allen S, 4 1 0 0 0 0 2
Inherited runners-scored—B.Shaw 1-0. WP—Happ (1).
Umpires—Home, Jim Wolf; First, Brian Gorman; Second, Jim Reynolds; Third, Mike Everitt.
T—2:44. A—37,870 (45,274)