The Cleveland Indians won their sixth straight playoff game Monday night, beating the Blue Jays 4-2 in Toronto. Cleveland, which swept the Red Sox in the ALDS, is up 3-0 on the Blue Jays and just one win away from clinching its first World Series berth since 1997.
And there’s no denying how the Indians are doing it. They’re doing it with a lights-out bullpen, which, due to Trevor Bauer’s bloody hand, pitched 8.1 innings of relief Monday, with six receivers combining for 25 outs on 128 pitches. Closer Cody Allen entered in the seventh inning and recorded five outs before exiting for Andrew Miller, who recorded a four-out save to push the Blue Jays on the brink.
“We’ve seen this aggressive use of the bullpen pretty much all year long, and Terry Francona has done that with the Indians in the postseason,” Newsday MLB writer Marc Carig said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I think that’s part of the reason why you’re seeing them take it to the Blue Jays like we have seen this October. You see it again tonight. Didn’t mess around. Brought the closer in the ball game in the seventh inning. That sends a message. That makes it really, really difficult for a team that has that much firepower – even a team like Toronto – to come back late in these ball games. I think it’s been kind of a cool thing that we’ve seen throughout the postseason. Dave Roberts has done it, Joe Maddon has done it, obviously Terry Francona has done it. They’re just saying, ‘We’re not messing around. If you’re going to come back in this game, you’re doing it against our best arms.’”
Toronto mustered just one hit combined off of Allen and Miller, who struck out five of the nine batters they faced.
“I wish managers would do this more,” Carig said. “I hope this is something we see in the regular season more often. Andrew Miller is a freak and kind of an exception, but I like the overall idea of acknowledging that sometimes the most important outs in a game aren’t the final three. Sometimes it’s with the guys on base in the seventh inning where the tying run is at the plate and this become urgent. Sometimes those are much more important outs than a clean inning in the ninth.”
Game 4 is Tuesday in Toronto at 4 p.m. ET.