ALCS Game 3 Recap: Cleveland Bullpen Shines Again

Pete Hodges presents our ALCS Game 3 recap in which the Cleveland bullpen shines again following an early departure by Trevor Bauer. 

With their backs against the wall at home, down 2-0 in the ALCS, the Blue Jays sent Marcus Stroman to the mound. The sinkerballer started the night off by walking designated hitter Carlos Santana on five pitches. Following a Jason Kipnis ground out and a Francisco Lindor strike out, Mike Napoli launched a ball to deep right field. Right fielder Jose Bautista was almost able to track the ball down, but it tipped off the top of his glove as he crashed into the outfield wall. Santana scored from first, and Napoli was standing on second by the time center fielder Kevin Pillar got the ball into the infield. Stroman retired Jose Ramirez three pitches later on a sharp fly ball to left, but the Blue Jays were instantly down 1-0.

Trevor Bauer and his stitched up pinky took the mound to face the 2015 Blue Jays lineup as manager John Gibbons looked to shake things up. Bautista was now leading off with Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Troy Tulowitzki following. The idea was to give his best hitters the most at-bats and it worked out quite well last year. The righty on the mound greeted the revamped lineup by striking out Joey Bats. He then walked Donaldson and Encarnacion hit a sharp liner to center fielder Tyler Naquin. After another walk to Tulowitzki, Gibbons came out of the dug out and summoned home plate ump and crew chief Brian Gorman out to look at Bauer’s finger as the blood was visibly gushing out of Bauer’s pinky from the burst stitches. Gorman told Cleveland manager Terry Francona that he had to replace his starting pitcher before the game could continue. Dan Otero was then brought in with men on first and second. He was able to retire Russell Martin via a groundout to second base, holding the lead and starting a bullpen game for the best bullpen in the business.

In the top of the second, Coco Crisp walked with one out, and then stole second. Following a Tyler Naquin flyout, the veteran outfielder advanced to third on a wild pitch, but was stranded 90 feet away when catcher Roberto Perez watched strike three pass by.

Canada received proof of life when Michael Saunders blasted a 1-1 changeup the opposite way for a solo home run. After Kevin Pillar grounded back to the pitcher, sparkplug Ezequiel Carrera smacked a single up the middle. However, Ryan Goins reminded Toronto fans why he was left off the ALDS roster with a hope-killing double play.

After Stroman tossed a clean inning in the third, he was welcomed back to reality by a Mike Napoli bomb, giving Cleveland the 2-1 lead. The righty then sat the next six batters down without incident.

The Cleveland bullpen worked like the well-oiled machine that it is after the Saunders dinger. Jeff Manship covered the third inning, allowing a leadoff single from Bautista, but then retiring the next four in order. Then it was Zach McAllister’s turn. He finished off the fourth, but allowed a leadoff triple in the fifth by the ever-pesky Carrera. Goins had the offensive highlight of his career as he hit a RBI groundout to shortstop Francisco Lindor, tying the game.

It was at this point, in the bottom of the fifth that playoff Tito called on the big guns in Bryan Shaw. The hard-throwing righty retired Bautista before allowing a Donaldson single, but an aggressive Encarnacion swung at the first hard cutter that he saw, grounding out to second base and ending the inning.

Jason Kipnis began the sixth inning just as Napoli started the fourth, with a solo shot. After striking out Lindor for the second time, Stroman walked Napoli and Gibbons made the move to his bullpen. Right-hander Joe Biagini entered the game, Napoli then advanced on a wild pitch, which was originally ruled a steal (and this author still contends was a delayed steal, but no one at the league office will return my calls). Jose Ramirez subsequently singled the lumbering first baseman home, bringing the score to 4-2 before Biagini settled in and retired the next two batters.

Shaw was in complete control of the Blue Jays lineup as he forced Tulo to ground out to his counterpart and then struck out Martin and Saunders.

After a Perez single, sandwiched between a Naquin K and a Santana fly out, Biagini was lifted for lefty Brett Cecil. The bespectacled hurler ended the inning on a Kipnis fly out.

Following a sharply hit single to right, Francona decided to go to his bullpen once again. Everyone probably expected to see Andrew Miller emerge, but the crafty manager didn’t go to his bullpen ace, however, instead he signaled for a righty, and closer Cody Allen emerged from the bullpen. The now jack-of-all-trades forced Carrera to fly out to right field. Justin Smoak was called on to pinch hit for Goins as John Gibbons must have realized it wasn’t fair for him to face Allen. Pillar stole second base, and Smoak went down hacking. Following a Bautista base on balls, Josh Donaldson struck a first-pitch curveball to left fielder Coco Crisp who made an awkward sliding grab to end the inning.

Darwin Barney replaced Smoak at second base, and Cecil began the inning by giving Lindor first base. In what seemed like an unfair matchup, lefty specialist versus righty destructor of all lefties, Napoli went down swinging as Cecil refused to give the burly slugger a fastball. Following a Ramirez popout, Lindor was ruled out after replay review correctly found him over-sliding the bag to end the top of the eighth inning.

Closer Cody Allen started the bottom of the inning by inducing a grounder to first base by Edwin Encarnacion. He then struck out Tulowitzki. Francona then emerged from the dugout and this time called for the left-handed Miller. The relief ace pumped in four pitches to Russell Martin, three of them sliders, to get the inning-ending strikeout.

Roberto Osuna entered the game in the top of the ninth to attempt to hold the score at 4-2 for the hometown Jays. Things started off well for the 21-year-old closer as Lonnie Chisenhall lifted a harmless fly ball to center fielder Kevin Pillar. However, the ageless wonder, Coco Crisp’ pulled a grounder through the right side of the infield for a single. Tyler Naquin then demolished a four-seamer that would have scored Crisp had it not bounced over the outfield wall, placing runners at second and third. Osuna was able to strike Perez out and then force an inning-ending groundout to second base.

Miller remained in the game to attempt to earn his first ever postseason save. Things didn’t start off as planned as pinch-hitting Dioner Navarro smacked a single into right field. Miller didn’t seem too worried though, as he struck out Pillar on three pitches. Melvin Upton Jr., and his three career homers against Miller, came on to pinch hit for Carrera, but would head straight back to the dugout without passing go or collecting $200 after striking out. Miller completed the save by retiring hard-hitting Darwin Barney on a grounder to second base. Cleveland rocked as they went up three games to zero, an insurmountable lead.

In a bid to put the Blue Jays out of their misery and provide the bullpen with some rest for the World Series, Francona will turn to Corey Kluber for Game 4 tomorrow. The former Cy Young winner will pitch for the first time in his career on three days rest, so Cleveland pitching coach Mickey Callaway will be keeping a watchful eye on his velocity and command.


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Featured image courtesy of Ken Blaze.

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