Indians 4, Blue Jays 2: Let’s do this one more time, with feeling

Trevor Bauer Game 3 Indians Blue Jays
AP Photo/WFNY Edit
Ed. Note: When Jon Steiner offered to cover one of the Indians’ away games, we could not have said ‘yes’ fast enough. Naturally, he was provided one of the craziest games in the history of postseason baseball.

7:24 p.m. – I feel like this game needs a preamble to address how odd the context is. There’s evolving news about the rotation and Ryan Merritt.  There’s Trevor Bauer’s hideous finger. There’s Wahoo going to Canadian court. And my god, won’t somebody PLEASE think of the “circumstances”? This is to say nothing of the presidential race.

But my focus is drawn, laser-like, to Pedro Martinez’s suit—a sartorial choice I can only describe using the language of paradox: conservative polka-dots.

Back in the saddle.

7:43 p.m. – Obviously we would be a better team if Carrasco and Salazar were on this roster. Obviously using Ryan Merritt to pitch meaningful innings in the ALCS is insane. Obviously Trevor Bauer committing phalange-seppuku was sub-optimal.

All that said, I kind of like what the circumstances have forced upon us. I like this group being underdogs. I like that Josh Tomlin has a chance to do crazy, Tomlin-y things. I like needing to use our amazing bullpen in non-traditional ways.  And yes, I kind of like putting Bauer in a big situation, with his finger hanging off, just to see if he can step up.

For all the writing I’ve done about analytics and regression-to-the-mean and not putting too much stock into small samples, I tend to pull a complete 180 in the playoffs. Everything is uncertain and up for grabs, if only because there isn’t enough time for it to be otherwise. This isn’t to say you should count on any one particular unlikely thing to happen. But it does mean that some particular unlikely thing will…

8:00 p.m. – Just realized my wife is wearing a Shelley Duncan shirsey that I gave her for her birthday a few years back. No idea if this is a good omen or a bad omen, but it’s definitely not neutral, right?

8:07 p.m. – Every time they talk about drones I’m going to take a drink and now have cirrhosis.

8:08 p.m. – First pitch, down and in to Santana.  We’re off!

8:16 p.m. – Mike Napoli is ALIVE!!  After a leadoff walk to Santana, Kipnis lines out sharply to center followed by a Lindor swinging strikeout.  Just as I prepared myself for more drone talk, Napoli gets his first hit off a right-handed pitcher since the regular season with a double off the right field wall.  Santana scores from first to put the Tribe up 1-0. After a Ramirez line out to left, it’s Trevor time.

8:21 p.m. – The Duncan shirsey bodes well? Bauer strikes out Jose Bautista looking to start the game.  Probably some “circumstances” going on; will wait for post-game interviews.

Meanwhile, Bauer is mixing the hook with his heater and seems to have adequate control over both.

8:22 p.m. – DRONE TALK. Scouring the house for alcohol.

8:26 p.m. – After getting two outs, Bauer walks two and his finger is bleeding like a geyser.  This is not good.  He’ll be out of the game after this inning, if he can make it that far.  SCOURING THE HOUSE.

What? This? Oh, it’s fine.

8:30 p.m. – The Duncan shirsey is dead to me. Bauer’s done. He exits to the cheers of the classy Toronto crowd.

Dan Otero in with two on and two out.  I have to wonder if there’s any way Bauer pitches again this postseason? Not great, Bob!

8:33 p.m. – “This changes a lot of things” ~ R. Darling, philistine

8:36 p.m. – Otero gets a ground out to Kipnis, and we’re through one bloody, disgusting inning.

Funny story: Tom Graham is my former boss. This gives me great troll ability if I so choose.

8:48 p.m. – Marcus Stroman is not the Jays scariest pitcher—4.37 ERA, fewer than 7.5 strikeouts per nine. This season he threw 204 innings, which market the first time in his career he’d thrown more than 130. There’s a soft underbelly there to be sliced open.

On the other hand, he’s deceptively effective, largely by limiting walks (6%) and inducing groundballs with his sinker (60%).  I’m not exactly afraid of him, but he’s not that different from any of the other guys we’ve faced this postseason—an effective #2 starter. The Indians tend either to make those guys look like aces or to beat the snot out of them.  The good news so far: he’s already walked two.


Tribe gets Coco Crisp to third after a leadoff walk, but Bob Perez looks at strike three sail past his letters to end the inning. We’re winning, but only technically.

8:52 p.m. – This was going to happen at some point, and if finally did. The Blue Jays get their first home run of the series with a leadoff shot from Michael Saunders in the second of Otero.

8:54 p.m. – Ron Darling does NOT know what “ad hoc” means. This is not stopping him one bit.

8:58 p.m. – Otero gives up a hit to Carrera, but then gets a nifty Lindor-led 6-3 double play off the bat of Ryan Goins.

This has the feeling of a high scoring game, but maybe that’s just me hoping.  Heading to the third, we’re tied,1-1.

9:05 p.m. – Like I said, pitcher’s duel. Stroman sends down the top of the Tribe’s lineup 1-2-3. Manship coming in for Otero. I defer to Francona on nearly everything, but this seems early to be pulling people.

9:14 p.m. – Ya know, when Dick Cheney shot Curt Schilling’s Achilles tendon off with an AR-15, all I heard about was Schilling’s competitive grit. All I’m asking for his some consistency from the national media!  THIS THING IS FRICKIN RIGGED!!!!

Manship works through a scoreless (and bloodless!) third inning, that could’ve been much worse, considering he faced the meat of the order.

9:23 p.m. – Oh Napoli.  A majestic home run to left center that quiets the crowd.  He’s now hit two pitches about 850 total feet off Stroman tonight.  After the shot, the Tribe goes groundout, strikeout, groundout to take a 2-1 lead to the bottom of the fourth.

9:28 p.m. – After Manship gets Russell Martin on a check-swing to start the inning, Francona goes back to the pen for Zach McAllister. I have to think the pre-series plan was not to have McAllister pitch in a one-un game to a left handed home run hitter, but this is what happens when you have no LOOGY.

9:32 p.m. – On the one hand, Saunders did hit a 138 kph fastball from McAllister about 100 meters (metric system!!).  On the other hand, McAllister got both Saunders and Pillar, and on we head to the fifth. The Indians, despite all evidence to the contrary, up 2-1.

9:41 p.m. – I can already see from glances at the tweeter machine that Cleveland is going to have a long, not fun debate about how Trevor Bauer is an “irresponsible child who jeopardized his team’s chances” because of his obsession with “a toy”. This is a packaged shot at both his dedication (“Why are you not thinking about your curveballs, loser?”) and his manhood (“Toys” “Child” etc.).

I’m frustrated too.  I really am.  I wish it weren’t this way.  I don’t see how he makes another postseason start, and that’s particularly damaging to Cleveland’s chances. It sucks.

But making this about morality or responsibility or maturity or masculinity is to make this about you, and not him. Do you think for a second that anyone IN THE WORLD is more frustrated by this than Bauer?

This is not the first time someone literally cut short his postseason, FWIW. In 2000, Mike Matheny was the Cardinals everyday catcher. Between the regular season and the post season, he cut his hand with a hunting knife, ending his post season before it could start. Granted, it’s not a “toy”, but it was extra-curricular and costly and not great. This stuff happens. A fairly unknown rookie named Yadier Molina did fine. Cheer up.

Indians go down scoreless, heading to the bottom of the fifth.

9:45 p.m. – After a leadoff triple from Carrera, Ryan Goins drives him in with a bouncer to short.  Tied 2-2.

McAllister is done and Brian Shaw coming on with one out, bases empty to face Bautista, Donaldson, and Encarnacion.

9:52 p.m. – Shaw works out of the fifth, if not in entirely convincing fashion. A long out from Bautista, a sharp single to Donaldson, and a hanger that Encarnacion should have punished but doesn’t. Didn’t look great, but we’re through the worst of their lineup again, and they’ve yet to inflict any damage.

Onto the sixth, knotted at 2. Feels crucial we knock Stroman out now.

10:00 p.m. – I had to get a drink and go pee. Whilst accomplishing these feats, Kipnis homers to make it 3-2.

I immediately draw a causal relationship and have now decided to drink scotch on the toilet, as I’m not sure which was signal and which was noise.

Meanwhile, after striking out Lindor, Stroman walks Napoli and his night is done after 94 pitches. It’s now a bullpen game, and the Indians have the lead. If not exactly how you’d draw it up, this game is still sitting there for the taking. Curious to see how aggressive Tito gets here with his power arms, needing 12 more outs to go up 3-0.

10:11 p.m. – This freaking team…

With Biagini in to pitch, Napoli aggressively takes second base on a ball that squeaks away from catcher Russell Martin. Two pitches later, Jose Ramirez drops a little pop-liner in front of Pillar for an RBI single. Chiz and Coco line out to end the inning.

Tribe takes a 4-2 lead.

10:16 p.m. – My boy is getting his canine teeth, and is therefore now awake to watch this, despite being put to bed before it started. Getting teeth must be incredibly brutal: A premeditated compound fracture of sorts. And to top it off: In your mouth. Much like most of our earliest traumas (birth especially comes to mind), teething is conveniently buried into the recesses of our subconscious. The evidence, at least, that there is some grace left in this world.

Henry is 20 months old and doesn’t care about baseball yet. In no particular order, he likes: His penis, music and books, and after some deliberation, we’ve gone with the latter to pacify his angst tonight.  To that end, I’ve been listening to my wife read him stories about “The Little Critter” for the last hour or so.

This is just to say, I am not listening to the TBS crew. Feeling pretty good.

Shaw works through a scoreless and impressive sixth inning. Nine outs to go.

10:32 p.m. – This is potentially the least insightful thing I’ve ever written, but one advantage of winning all these games is that we get to play with the lead. To wit, Jason Grilli is a good reliever, and someone who I’m not eager to face when down late.  But we’re facing him up two runs in the 7th inning.  It’s better this way.  Or, as Nuke Laloosh would say:

After Grilli gets Naquin swinging, Bob Perez loops a soft single to center, followed by a Santana flyout to left. Grilli’s night is done, as the Jays go to Brett Cecil to get Kipnis on a flyball to right to get out of it.

Still 4-2 Good Guys, bottom half of the Jays lineup coming.

10:35 p.m. – Shaw back out for the seventh.  This is what happens when you go to your pen in the first; someone has to go longer than he should.

10:36 p.m. – Shaw gives up a leadoff single to Pillar and he’s done.  Francona going to…Cody Allen? Cody Allen? CODY ALLEN!!

OK, whatever. I’m not sure about this, but what are you supposed to do when your starter’s hand self-combusts after 16 pitches? Francona has certainly earned this.

10:48 p.m. – Did you know that the Rogers Centre was built only three years before Camden Yards in Baltimore? They feel of entirely different eras. The former an old, cookie-cutter, multi-purpose monstrosity of cold, dark terror. The Baltimore stadium a compact and joyfully asymmetric funhouse that set the standard for the next generation of ballparks.  It’s odd that I always think of them as brothers, given their disparities.

This game is STRESSING ME OUT.  Allen has allowed a stolen base and recorded two outs.  Pillar on second and Jose Bautista coming up.

10:50 p.m. – “I can’t see him challenging him here with a fastball…[pause] He did!”  ~ R. Darling, soothsayer

10:53 p.m. – NEVER A DOUBT. After Bautista works a walk on a 3-2 count, Donaldson drives a sinking liner to left field that Coco Crisp slides to catch in spectacular fashion.

That was not unstressful.

FTR, Matt Laporta does not make that play; I’VE KNOWN CHUCK FOR DECADES!! (please watch to the end; it’s glorious):

11:02 p.m. – I don’t have the emotional energy to fight this right now, but Lindor just got called out (after being called safe) for sliding off the bag to end the top of the eighth. In the process of sliding over the bag, he momentarily lost contact, which was demonstrated on replay. It was the “right” call.

This is not what replay was meant for, and it’s stupid. Good job, dummies. 4-2, Indians.

11:06 p.m. – Allen back out to start the eighth because we kind of don’t have anything else. Gets Encarnacion to ground out to short on two pitches.

Let’s take a second to imagine what it must be like to be a Toronto fan.

Now, instead, imagine that you have human decency and a conscience.

11:08 p.m. – Allen strikes out Tulo looking, and that’s it for Cody. Andrew Miller coming on, needing four outs to close it out. Nobody on, two outs.

I can’t believe this might work. I cannot believe it.

11:12 p.m. – It’s not even exciting: Miller strikes out Martin on four pitches that are all utterly obscene and unhittable.1 The crowd is defeated.

It’s one thing to be broken by Kluber and the “circumstances” of Saturday; it’s another to be this feckless against middle relievers. If you’re a Jays fan, you can’t help but feel that the window to get back into this series just closed as Andrew Miller slid one past Russell Martin. There were eight innings of non-Miller pitchers to attack, and you let them slice you up like a drone propeller gone wild.

As a Cleveland fan: How sweet it is to see this bullpen succeed on its depth, rather than just its superstars. We know how valuable Otero and Shaw and (yes, even) Manship and McAllister have been for this team, both this year and in years past. Francona deployed them all masterfully tonight, and now we need three outs from the best reliever in baseball to take a 3-0 series lead.

11:23 p.m. – The Indians threaten, but do not score. Still 4-2.  Still Miller Time.

11:27 p.m. – Zoom in time. Bottom of the ninth.

Miller faces pinch hitter Dioner Navarro who drives a single to right. One on, nobody out.

11:28 p.m. – NO PROBLEM. Miller strikes out Pillar on three pitches. Navarro on first, one out. Melvin Upton coming up against Miller.

11:30 p.m. – Upton goes down swinging on a 2-2 slider. It. Is. Not. Fair.

Darwin Barney stands between Cleveland and a 3-0 ALCS lead.2

11:32 p.m. – Barney with a weak grounder up the middle and Kipnis finishes it with a strong play!

Indians win it 4-2 for a 3-0 series lead. They are undefeated in the postseason, which is, well, not what Hoynes predicted, for one thing.

I just don’t know what to feel at this point other than happiness, confusion, and a bit of dread for the other shoe waiting to kick us in the groin. We are duct tape and baling wire that has no business winning these games, but my God, it’s fun to watch them do it.

In the rush to celebrate divine intervention, let’s not sell short what our bullpen just did. That was a transformational performance that saved Corey Kluber and Ryan Merritt, and possibly the season. From Danny Otero to Andrew Miller, they earned that win. I told you that something unlikely would happen, but who’d have thought it would be this wonderful?

One more to go, until things get interesting…

  1. All four were strikes, but whatever. []
  2. Let that sink in. []