Phillies

MLB Playoffs: Indians win Game 1 of ALCS on Francisco Lindor HR

MLB Playoffs: Indians win Game 1 of ALCS on Francisco Lindor HR

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND -- When the ball disappeared over the outfield wall, Francisco Lindor raised his right fist and took off.

Smiling with every stride, Cleveland's superstar-in-the-making shortstop sprinted around the bases like he was being chased.

He and the Indians aren't slowing down for anything this October.

Lindor hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning and Corey Kluber silenced Toronto's booming bats, giving the Indians a 2-0 win over the Blue Jays in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series on Friday night.

Lindor connected on an 0-2 changeup from Marco Estrada and tore around the basepaths as the bend-but-don't-break Indians won their fourth straight playoff game in this most unexpected season.

"I believe in my team. I believe in what we have," said Lindor, the talented 22-year-old who plays as if he's been part of postseason games for a decade. "We're just trying to do our thing."

Kluber, Cleveland's solid and stoic ace, pitched 6 1/3 spotless innings before manager Terry Francona turned things over to the Indians' best weapon -- their bullpen. Andrew Miller made the Blue Jays look silly , striking out five of the six batters he faced, and closer Cody Allen got the save with a perfect ninth as the Indians extended their longest postseason winning streak since 1920.

The Blue Jays wasted some early scoring chances -- they had six runners in the first three innings -- against Kluber and their frustration only grew as the night went on. Toronto slugger Jose Bautista struck out three times and Edwin Encarnacion lost his cool when he was fanned in the eighth, jawing at plate umpire Laz Diaz.

"It wasn't like we faced the average Joe out there," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Kluber. "He's one of the elite pitchers in the game, as is Miller, as is Allen. We got some guys on base early. We couldn't get that big hit."

After getting their first ALCS win since 2007, the Indians will try to take a 2-0 lead Saturday with Josh Tomlin facing Toronto's 20-game winner, J.A. Happ. Tomlin was originally scheduled to start Game 3, but was moved up when Trevor Bauer sustained an odd injury as he sliced open his right pinkie while repairing a drone.

Kluber kept flying in the postseason.

The right-hander has not allowed a run in 13 1/3 innings this October and he kept the Blue Jays inside Progressive Field after they teed off against the Texas Rangers in the Division Series.

Estrada carried a four-hit shutout into the sixth before walking Jason Kipnis with one out. Lindor was in an 0-2 hole before the shortstop, who could become a household name before this series ends, drove his homer over the wall in right-center and ran like Usain Bolt wearing a Chief Wahoo cap.

"I thought (Kevin) Pillar was going to catch it," Lindor said. "As soon as it went out, I put my hands out. I looked at the dugout and everybody was going insane."

Estrada allowed six hits in Toronto's first complete game all year, but made one costly mistake.

"I was trying to bounce it, to be honest with you," Estrada said. "Good hitters are going to hit it out and he's a good hitter."

Kluber dodged some early trouble and held the Blue Jays, who hit eight home runs and scored 22 times in their ALDS sweep of Texas, to six hits in the first six innings. The Indians needed every out they could get from Kluber, who shut out Boston for seven innings in his postseason debut 10 days after he injured a quadriceps in a start against Detroit.

The 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner, who will certainly get votes this season after winning 18 games, has been the only dependable starter all season for Cleveland, which lost Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar to injuries in September and is now dealing with Bauer's bizarre mishap.

"I laughed when I heard," Kipnis said. "I don't care, as long as he can pitch for us. It's not as funny if he can't pitch. If he can, (I'll tell him), `You're an idiot, but go get some outs for us now.'"

Odds and ends
Kluber became the fifth pitcher to throw at least six scoreless innings in his first two postseason starts. The others were Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson (1905), Joe Niekro (1980-1981), Dave Righetti (1981) and Steve Avery (1991). . Indians 3B Lonnie Chisenhall went 3 for 3 and owns a franchise-best .529 batting average in five career playoff games. . Cleveland OF Coco Crisp equaled the LCS record with two sacrifice bunts. . Toronto's only other postseason complete game was by Jack Morris in the opener of the 1992 ALCS.

Comeback kid
Blue Jays lefty Francisco Liriano will be eligible to pitch Saturday after recovering from a concussion sustained in the ALDS when he was struck in the head by a line drive. Toronto played with a 24-man roster in the opener as Liriano remained in baseball's seven-day concussion protocol. As a result, RHP Marcus Stroman -- Toronto's projected starter in Game 3 -- was available in relief for Game 1.

Trainer's room
Travis will have an MRI on Saturday after re-injuring his right knee when covering first base in the fifth. He sat out the final two games of the Division Series with a bone bruise and is worried it's worse.

"It hurts pretty bad," he said. "I jarred my knee a little bit. I felt a sharp pain in my knee."

Up next
Blue Jays: Happ struck out 11 and allowed one run over seven innings in beating the Indians on July 3. He was second in the AL in wins, going 20-4 with a 3.18 ERA. Happ picked up the victory in Game 2 of the ALDS against Texas, allowing one run in five innings.

Indians: Tomlin gave up three homers -- to Martin, Melvin Upton Jr. and Encarnacion -- in a loss to the Blue Jays on Aug. 20. Tomlin went 0-5 in August, but has bounced back and given up seven earned runs in 31 2/3 innings over his last six appearances.

Aaron Nola overpowers Mookie Betts, Mike Trout in All-Star Game debut

Aaron Nola overpowers Mookie Betts, Mike Trout in All-Star Game debut

Aaron Nola vs. Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve and Mike Trout. Welcome to the All-Star Game.

Nola made his ASG debut Tuesday night in D.C., pitching the top of the fifth inning with the National League trailing 2-1.

He opened the frame by striking out Royals catcher Salvador Perez on a low-and-away curveball well off the plate.

Next up was Betts, the AL MVP favorite. On a 3-2 count, Nola struck Betts out swinging on a high-and-tight 96 mph fastball.

The next batter, 2017 AL MVP Altuve, singled to right-center on the first pitch. 

And that brought up Trout, who had homered in his previous at-bat against Jacob deGrom. 

Trout had no such luck against Nola, popping up to first base in foul territory on the third pitch he saw.

Nola threw 15 pitches, 10 strikes. 

This was a pretty cool moment for Nola, facing arguably the three best hitters in baseball and retiring two of them. Looked like he belonged.

He made some new friends, too. Here's Nola planning an offseason sleepover with Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin.

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Phillies' other trade options if they can't land Manny Machado

Phillies' other trade options if they can't land Manny Machado

There's no player on the trade market who could replicate for the Phillies the impact Manny Machado would make in August and September. 

There's definitely no player who would invigorate the fan base as much.

But if the Dodgers do end up beating the Phillies' offer for the best available player, the Phils will still look to make other upgrades.

That could involve acquiring a solid, non-star player for the left side of the infield, in addition to pitching help.

If the Phils can't add huge run production to their lineup, their focus could shift to players who'd assist in run prevention.

Here are some names to keep in mind:

Royals super-utilityman Whit Merrifield

There has been reported interest from the Phillies in Merrifield, and the two organizations have already scouted each other because of the earlier interest in Mike Moustakas.

Merrifield can play all over the diamond — first, second, third and all three outfield spots. If Maikel Franco is going well, you could play him in the outfield. If Franco is slumping, he could play third base. But acquiring Merrifield would be just as much about the future as this year.

Merrifield doesn't have nearly the raw power of a Machado or a Moustakas, but he's a proven .290-.300 hitter with gap power, speed and defensive versatility. He led the AL in steals (34) last season and has the third-most doubles (30) in the majors this season.

He would not be cheap to acquire. Merrifield is making $570,000 this season and will be inexpensive again in 2019 before his arbitration years begin. All told, Merrifield is under club control through the end of 2022. These are his prime years and he'll be underpaid for them relative to his performance.

Merrifield is not the same caliber player as Machado, but the cost in trade could end up being similar because Machado is a two-month rental and Merrifield comes with 4½ years of team control. That is a major, major difference that might offset the gap in talent between the two players.

Twins 3B/SS/2B Eduardo Escobar

Another name connected to the Phillies. Escobar, 29, is having a career year, hitting .271/.327/.507 for the Twins with a majors-leading 35 doubles, 14 homers and 57 RBI. 

He's been one of the most clutch players in baseball this season, hitting .367 with a 1.112 OPS with runners in scoring position. That's not exactly a sustainable long-term skill, but it's worth mentioning.

The switch-hitting Escobar would be a rental. He's a free agent at season's end. Thus, it would be cheaper to acquire him than Merrifield.

Top-tier relievers

If the Phils don't get Machado, they could instead land a combination of a bat and a bullpen piece to try to match his overall value.

Zach Britton. Jeurys Familia. Brad Hand. Raisel Iglesias. Felipe Vazquez.

Britton would be the cheapest option because he's a free agent after the season. We've known the Phillies have interest in him, and they could still pursue him even if Machado heads out West.

Britton's velocity has returned. He's back to throwing that power sinker in the mid-to-high 90s. His left-handedness would give the Phillies the matchup reliever they need, along with an experienced ninth-inning option that could allow Seranthony Dominguez to be used in a high-leverage role earlier in the game.

If you can't make a move that allows you to comfortably outscore your opponents moving forward, shortening the game is another way to remain in contention.

Baseball has changed. Having upper-echelon relievers in October is more meaningful now than ever before.

Blue Jays pieces

Jim Salisbury reported Monday that as the Phillies await an answer from the Orioles, they're also interested in Blue Jays lefty and former Phillie J.A. Happ.

Acquiring Happ would give the Phils a left-handed starting pitcher, which they haven't had since September 2016. That move could then allow them to move a Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta to the bullpen. Both are high-velocity, strikeout pitchers and both could thrive in a bullpen role. Their velocity and K-rates may even increase.

Imagine the Phillies being up 3-2 with two outs in the sixth inning and their starter at 105 pitches. A combination of Pat Neshek and Velasquez or Pivetta could get you all the way to the ninth. It would also give the Phillies a look at one of those young starting pitchers in that different role to gauge whether it makes the most sense for them long term.

Happ isn't the only Blue Jay to monitor, though. Yangervis Solarte has power and can play every infield position. He also has fair-market club options beyond this year — $5.5 million next season, $8 million the following season.

Curtis Granderson could help, too, as the missing power bat off the bench. Granderson was 0 for 13 heading into the All-Star break, but from June 7 to July 7, he hit .319/.373/.623 with six doubles and five homers.

No, he's not some big-time difference-maker in 2018, but Granderson is a markedly better and more dangerous hitter than the Phillies currently have on the bench.

It's not nearly as sexy of a trade, but acquiring a package of Happ, Granderson and Solarte could improve the Phillies in four different areas: rotation, bullpen, infield and bench.

Josh Donaldson, a much bigger name and more impactful power bat when healthy, is also worth keeping in the back of your mind. Donaldson has been out with a calf injury since Memorial Day but has resumed running and doing baseball activities and could be back by the end of the month. 

He's a free agent after the season as well. The contract status combined with all the time missed over the last two seasons will decrease the price tag. 

But if he's healthy and ready to go, this is a former MVP who hit .282/.377/.524 over the last five seasons with an average of 33 homers and 98 RBI.

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