MLB Playoffs: Indians top Blue Jays again for 3-0 ALCS lead

MLB Playoffs: Indians top Blue Jays again for 3-0 ALCS lead


TORONTO -- Andrew Miller and the Cleveland bullpen pulled off their most impressive feat yet in these American League playoffs, taking over after Trevor Bauer's bloody exit and holding off the Toronto Blue Jays in a 4-2 victory Monday night that moved the Indians within one win of their first pennant since 1997.

Jason Kipnis and Mike Napoli homered for the Indians, who took a 3-0 lead in the AL Championship Series. They are unbeaten in six playoff games this year and can complete their second consecutive sweep on Tuesday.

Six relievers combined for 25 outs and 128 pitches, limiting Toronto to two runs and seven hits. Miller got four outs for the save.

"If anybody has a hiccup, we probably lose," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

Indians ace Corey Kluber is scheduled to start Game 4 on short rest after Bauer's drone-related finger injury created more upheaval in a rotation that's been short-handed all postseason. Bauer faced only four batters before getting pulled in the first inning after his stitched-up right pinkie began dripping blood.

Enter the stingy Cleveland relievers, who pitched the Indians to a Division Series sweep over Boston and have them on the verge of another.

"It's a good feeling," Kipnis said. "We've still got one more to get there, and it's going to be tough. We know these guys. Just kind of like the Boston series -- we don't want to wait around for them to figure it out. We want to get to them now."

After Bauer left with two down and two on in the first, the final 25 Toronto outs were distributed as follows: four each for Dan Otero and Jeff Manship, three for Zach McAllister, five each for Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen, and four for Miller.

"We're having a blast. Just watch us play. Watch all the smiles. Guys are loose. Guys are having a good time, and you're seeing the play out there kind of reflect that attitude," Kipnis said.

The Blue Jays have never led in the series. And when Kipnis led off the sixth with a home run to right-center field, Cleveland went up 3-2 and was suddenly just a few outs from being able to turn the game over to Allen and Miller.

They appeared in that order, yet another instance in which Francona has maneuvered his bullpen unencumbered by the idea of rigid roles. Allen, who usually closes for the Indians, came on in the seventh with a runner on and nobody out. A two-out walk to Jose Bautista put the potential tying run on, but Josh Donaldson's liner to left field stayed up long enough for Coco Crisp to make a sliding catch.

Miller, who struck out 10 in 3 2/3 innings through the first two games of the series, fanned three batters this time.

"We knew that we could do this, where we could piece together bullpen arm by bullpen arm and go one inning, two innings and still get a win," Kipnis said. "We've done it before. We have the experience."

Cleveland has won nine straight games dating to the regular season.

Napoli entered 2 for 18 this postseason and in an 0-for-25 slump against right-handers dating to the regular season. He opened the scoring with an RBI double off righty Marcus Stroman in the first -- Napoli's long fly popped out of Bautista's glove before both the ball and Bautista bounced off the wall in right field.

Bauer made it through only 21 pitches. He'd been pushed back two days to Game 3 after cutting his finger last week repairing one of the drones he enjoys flying as a hobby. He received stitches and tried to pitch, but couldn't make it through the first inning without blood dripping from his hand.

"Trevor got a little leak," Kipnis said. "A couple of us had seen the wound kind of inside and knew it was a possibility of happening. He can deal with the pain, but it's getting something like that to close up. It's hard to do in a short amount of time."

It's yet another injury problem for a Cleveland team that couldn't include starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar on its ALCS roster. Even with the Indians up 3-0, their rotation for the rest of this series isn't a sure thing for the Indians, with Kluber coming back for Game 4 (and presumably any Game 7) on short rest and lightly used rookie Ryan Merritt lined up for Game 5.

Michael Saunders tied it for Toronto with a solo homer in the second, matching the scoring total by the Blue Jays over the first two games in Cleveland. Napoli's solo homer in the fourth put the Indians up 2-1, but Ezequiel Carrera led off the Blue Jays fifth with a triple and scored to tie it on a grounder by Ryan Goins.

Kipnis answered with his first hit of the series, a home run that put Cleveland back ahead. And after Napoli drew a walk from Stroman and advanced to second on a wild pitch, Jose Ramirez added an RBI single off reliever Joe Biagini.

"Tito did a masterful job running that bullpen today," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "They shut us down."

Trainer's room
Bauer's problems were the big story Monday, but Francona did say Salazar (forearm) was progressing well after throwing to hitters Sunday night.

Up next
Kluber has never started on three days' rest in his major league career, but Francona said before Monday's game that was the plan for Game 4 if Bauer had problems with his finger. Toronto will start right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who allowed six runs in 5 2/3 innings against Texas in Game 3 of the ALDS.

What's up with Phillies top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez?

Photo: NBCSP

What's up with Phillies top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez?

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Sixto Sanchez, the Phillies' top pitching prospect, has been noticeably absent from game action in minor-league camp.

Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development, says there's nothing to be alarmed about.

"He had the flu and he's over it now," Jordan said. "He's fine now. No issues. He's 100 percent."

Jordan said Sanchez got up to 30 pitches in a bullpen session this week.

"He let it go with all his pitches," Jordan said.

Jordan added that Sanchez would pitch in a game in the next few days. He added that Sanchez would open the season on time with the Clearwater club, though his innings will be watched at the outset until he's fully stretched out.

Sanchez, 19, is a power-armed right-hander with remarkable control. He went 5-7 with 3.03 ERA in 18 starts at Lakewood and Clearwater, both Single A affiliates, last season. He pitched 95 innings, struck out 84, walked 18 and had a WHIP of 0.958.

Phillies take long look at Roman Quinn as potential backup SS

AP Images

Phillies take long look at Roman Quinn as potential backup SS


FORT MYERS, Fla. — However the Phillies’ bench shapes up — whether it features four or five men during the first week of the regular season — one thing is a must:

“We need somebody who can play shortstop, absolutely,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

“We need someone who can play multiple positions in the infield on our bench and someone who can play multiple positions in our outfield on the bench. That’s a necessity.”

Kapler has taken a long look at Roman Quinn at shortstop the last two days. Quinn played four innings there Sunday against the Twins. He was there for the entire game Monday against the Red Sox.

Quinn grew up playing shortstop and outfield. He broke into pro ball as a shortstop but moved to center field during the 2014 season, when it became clear that J.P. Crawford was the shortstop of the future. Now, Quinn is relearning the shortstop position so he can potentially serve as a utility man on the Phillies’ bench. He’d be an intriguing talent to have on the bench because he’s a switch-hitter with electrifying speed.

As a shortstop, the Phillies won’t be looking for Quinn to be a Gold Glover. They need someone to make the play on an emergency or fill-in basis. Quinn made three plays in Monday’s game. He short-hopped one throw and Carlos Santana made the pick. He knocked down one ball, recovered and made a strong throw for an out. He made a nice play on a groundball while shifted behind second. It wasn't the prettiest exhibition, but it got the job done.

“The more I play there, the more comfortable I’m getting,” Quinn said. “I’m enjoying it. I’d like to think I can play any position. It’s fun coming in from center field and playing shortstop. I love it.”

Quinn turns 25 in May. Some schools of thought might come down against carrying a player of his potential as a reserve. Certainly, more time in Triple A would not hurt him, especially after missing more than three months with an elbow injury last year. But the Phillies are open to the possibility of carrying Quinn. His shortstop audition the last two days has made that clear.

“Everyday reps at the minor-league level are incredibly valuable,” Kapler said. “However, because a guy is on the bench at the major-league level doesn’t mean his development is stunted. He’s getting a different kind of experience and a really valuable experience.”

Tom Eshelman was charged with four runs in the bottom of the ninth as the Phils squandered a three-run lead and lost, 6-5, to Boston.

Aaron Altherr drove in four runs. He belted a three-run homer in the fifth inning against Boston ace Chris Sale. Cesar Hernandez grinded out a long at-bat before striking out and Santana and Rhys Hoskins both walked before the home run.

“When you have a guy like Sale, making him work is critical,” Kapler said. “Cesar’s punchout was an incredible at-bat. Santana and Hoskins made him work. [Sale] gets a little fatigued and Altherr gets a pitch to whack. So Altherr hitting a home run doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens as a result of team baseball.”