Terry Francona has relied on his bullpen, particularly his big three, to an extreme level this post-season and he continued to in game two as the trio of Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen had perhaps their most impressive performance to date. Josh Tomlin was no slouch either as the pitching staff made two runs stand up for the second day in a row. Here’s how it all went down:
Josh Tomlin took a moment to find the strike zone, going 3-1 to Ezequiel Carrera to start the game, but consecutive ground balls to Jason Kipnis to make sure Edwin Encarnacion batted with the bases empty his first time up. He would ground out to Kipnis as well, although with the extreme shift on against the right hander, Kipnis was playing on the short stop side of second.
With odd shadows thanks to the 4:08 PM start, the Indians hitters came out of the box extremely aggressive against J.A. Happ. Rajai Davis flew out to left on the first pitch he saw, then Kipnis worked the count a bit before flying out to center. Francisco Lindor then hit the first pitch he saw past Troy Tulowitzki at short stop for a single, but Mike Napoli struck out to end the inning without score.
Right after getting the first hit of the game, Lindor showed off the glove and arm that will likely get him some hardware in a few weeks. Ranging to his right, he snared a grounder off the bat of Jose Bautista and used a jump throw to catch him at first. He made the second play of the inning as well, a much easier ground ball off the bat of Tulowitzki, then Russell Martin hit the Jays sixth consecutive ball between short and second, but this one was directly up the middle and snuck through to the outfield for a single. Michael Saunders preferred not to put it in play and he was struck out looking by Tomlin on an inside fastball.
While he didn’t lead off the game, Carlos Santana did lead off the second inning and he did so in grand fashion, pulling a low, inside fastball over the wall in left for a 1-0 lead. Happ recovered quickly, striking out Jose Ramirez swinging on three pitches and getting both Brandon Guyer and Lonnie Chisenhall to ground out to end the inning.
Tomlin continued to keep the Blue Jays on the ground in the third, not letting them take advantage of the favorable weather conditions to make the best use of their team power. Ramirez retired Kevin Pillar to start the inning, then Darwin Barney (starting as the injured Devon Travis had to be replaced on the 25 man roster by Justin Smoak) hit the Jays second single of the game, another ground ball up the middle. With Barney running, Lindor was unable to turn two on a ground ball off the bat of Carrera, but he did get the out at first.
Josh Donaldson then roped a ball to right and with Barney already in scoring position, he was able to score the tying run on the double. A rare walk (possibly the unintentional/intentional variety) put Encarnacion on first with two outs and not giving into the Jays top slugger ultimately worked out as Tomlin was able to strike out Bautsista swinging on three cut fastballs in the mid 80’s.
Roberto Perez worked a walk to start the Indians half of the third, but a ground ball to short of the bat of Davis retired him, leaving Davis on first after the fielder’s choice. Davis made up for his poor at bat by moving to second on the first pitch to Kipnis, taking an easy steal of Happ and Martin. Two pitches later, Davis moved up again, this time on a ball that just barely got away from Martin in the dirt.
Kipnis had the situation completely in his favor with a runner at third, one out and a 3-0 count, but he swung and missed to make it 3-1, then flew out to short left, keeping Davis 90 feet from giving the Indians the lead. Lindor was able to make up for the missed opportunity, however, with his second single in as many at bats, scoring Davis on a ground ball up the middle. Happ then ended the short scoring threat by inducing a Napoli ground ball to third.
Like the previous inning didn’t happen, the Blue Jays hitters completely moved away from the patience that allowed them their previous success. Tulowitzki grounded out on the second pitch of his at bat, then Martin had a few of the biggest swings you’ll ever see in a Major League game as he went down on five pitches. Saunders didn’t bother taking a single pitch as he was swinging from the heels as well on balls well out of the strike zone for a quick three pitch at bat and a 1-2-3 inning for Tomlin.
Happ was similarly proficient in the bottom of the inning, striking out Santana looking, then getting consecutive ground outs of Ramirez and Guyer to end the inning.
Tomlin continued his success through his third time through the line-up, fielding a grounder off the bat of Pillar, then striking out Barney looking and Carrera swinging to end the inning. While the final pitch that got both batters was the cutter, Tomlin used two curve balls in the zone to set up Carrera. The movement on his curve was electric today and the only advantage the Jays hitters could find against him was when they stayed patient and avoiding swinging when it was too low in the zone. Once he brought the pitch up, he was essentially unhittable.
Chisenhall began the fifth with a single through the right side, his seventh in 15 at bats, but was exchanged for Davis when the Indians center fielder hit into another fielder’s choice with one out. While it didn’t appear that Davis would be attempting to steal second with two outs, he still got into the head of Happ and was able to move to second thanks to a poor pick off attempt that got by Encarnacion at first. He would be stranded there, however, when Kipnis grounded out to first to end the inning.
With his pitch count still low, Tomlin went to work in the sixth against the meat of the Blue Jays order. Donaldson helped him out with a ground out to short (Lindor deserves some credit as well for making a fine play), then Encarnacion lifted one to center for an out to Davis, the first ball hit in the air against Tomlin all game. After walking Bautista for his second base on balls of the game, Terry Francona pulled the veteran right hander for his favorite son, Bryan Shaw.
Shaw was able to get Tulowitzki to ground one back to him for the final out of the inning, but what Tomlin did today and in the two starts he has made in the post-season deserves extra credit. After allowing just two runs in five innings against the top offense in baseball, he allowed just one in 5.2 while striking out five against another potent offense. While not quite matching Kluber’s two starts, he has done as well as could be hoped for with three runs allowed in 10.2 innings (2.53 ERA) with seven hits, three walks and ten strike outs.
Right hander, Joe Biagini, came in for the sixth for Toronto and set the first two Indians down with a strike out of Lindor and another Napoli ground out to third. Santana worked a walk, but Ramirez grounded out to Barney at second to end the inning.
With the seventh game everyday Andrew Miller, who has now pitched in four of the Indians five post-season games this year, missing only the game two blow out against Boston. Miller struck out Martin swinging for the first out, then the pinch hitter Melvin Upton, Jr. for the second. He then mowed down Pillar swinging on three pitches making all of his eight outs in the ALCS strike outs.
Biagini stayed in for the seventh and got Guyer to pop out on one pitch and Chisenhall on a hard grounder to second. He then struck out Perez swinging as the Indians went down in order for just the second time in the game and the fifth time in the first two games.
Somehow, Miller was able to come out for the eighth despite throwing 30 pitches on Friday and he immediately extended that outs by strike out streak to nine in a row against Barney. Carrera ended the K-streak with a ground out to second, but he started a new one by K’ing Donaldson swinging to end the inning.
Davis hit a line drive shot to right, but Bautista made a nice catch for the first out in the bottom of the inning and the Tribe ended up going in order a second time in a row as Kipnis and Lindor each grounded out.
For the fourth time in five post-season games, Cody Allen came in for the save and for the third time, it was with a one run lead. After initially falling behind in the count, Allen was able to come back to strike out Encarnacion looking for the first out. Bautista then went swinging on a fast ball up in the zone as Allen continued the mastery established by Tomlin and Miller. Not wanting to extend the torture any longer, Tulowitzki swung at the first offering from Allen and flew out to deep center field, giving the Indians the win and a 2-0 lead in the ALCS.