For the third straight season, the American League will be represented by the AL Central in the World Series. Cleveland defeated host Toronto, 3-0 in Game 5 to win the American League Championship Series. It will be the Indians first World Series appearance since 1997.
Once again, Indians manager Terry Francona made all the right moves.
Rookie Ryan Merritt, he of just one big league start and just 11 total MLB innings (all coming in 2016), made the start. No one really knew what to expect. Merritt carved up the Blue Jays lineup.
He mixed things up, throwing in and out and up and down. Despite not throwing more than about 86 mph with his fastball, Merritt was still able to bust the Blue Jays inside and keep them off-balance.
It also helped that the Indians scored a run in the first on a Mike Napoli two out double.
Merritt induced two ground outs to start the bottom of the first before striking out Edwin Encarnacion. In the second, he got a fly out before striking out the next two hitters (neither of which took their bat off their shoulder). In the 3rd inning, Merritt threw just five pitches to retire the Blue Jays in order.
With one out in the fourth, the Blue Jays collected their first hit, a single by Josh Donaldson. Merritt came right back to get an inning ending double play. With one out in the fifth, Merritt allowed a bloop single to Russell Martin.
Francona decided then to go to his three-headed bullpen monster, despite the bottom of the order coming up and Merritt having thrown just 49 pitches (33 strikes).
First up was Bryan Shaw, who allowed a single to pinch-hitter Michael Saunders. Shaw battled back to strike out the next two batters to end the threat. In the sixth, he induced a ground out before allowing a single to former KC Royal Jose Bautista.
That was all for Shaw and in came Andrew Miller, who was later named ALCS MVP. Miller induced an inning ending double play on the first pitch he threw. In the 7th inning, Miller needed just 12 pitches to retire the middle of the Blue Jays order.
In the eighth, Miller allowed another hit to pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro, but threw six more pitches to record three outs. In six postseason games, Miller struck out 21 in 11.2 innings (six games).
Closer Cody Allen came in for the save (he earned his third), but allowed a leadoff double to Bautista. Allen then struck out both Josh Donaldson and EE on six total pitches. That brought up Troy Tulowitzki, who popped up in foul territory to end the game and set off the celebration.
The Indians got their final two runs in back-to-back innings: the third and fourth. Carlos Santana hit a LONG homer in the third and former Royal Coco Crisp hit a two out home run in the fourth.
The game was just a little over two and a half hours.
Now the Indians have to wait for their opponent, as the LA Dodgers lead the Chicago Cubs, 2-1 in the NLCS (Game 4 is tonight). Because the AL won the All-Star Game (with Indians ace Corey Kluber being the winning pitcher in the ASG), the Indians have home-field advantage. The World Series will open on Tuesday, October 25th in Cleveland.