You got the sense when Russell Martin worked a walk in the fourth inning in the Blue Jays survivor outing against the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday that things might finally fall into place.
Here was the Toronto catcher, who skulked into the batter’s box carting a sub-.100 playoff batting average, somehow conspiring to earn a free pass off Corey Kluber, the Indians ace, who was beginning to wobble like a Jenga tower.
It marked just the second time in four games of the American League Championship Series that Martin had reached base. But it left Toronto with runners at first and second and, with one out, Ezequiel Carrera looped a fly ball that dropped into shallow centre and easily scored Troy Tulowitzki from second base.
It was only one run, but that passes for a windfall for the offensively challenged Blue Jays these days.
The Blue Jays milked the breaks for all they were worth Tuesday and, with Josh Donaldson adding necessary flair both offensive and defensively, the Blue Jays would go on to record a 5-1 victory over the Indians at Rogers Centre.
The win provided faint light at the end of the Blue Jays’ proverbial tunnel, and it avoided what would have been an embarrassing four-game sweep at the hands of the Indians.
But the Blue Jays, now trailing 3-1 in the series, still have their work cut out for them. Game five of the series will go Wednesday afternoon here.
“We have everything to gain and nothing to lose, that’s the position we’re in,” said Toronto pitcher Jason Grilli, who pitched a perfect eighth inning in relief to do his part. “You can judge who the pressure’s on, really. Call it as you see it. We know where we’re at, and we’re confident with what team we’ve got.”
The lineups to pass through security to get into Rogers Centre for the beginning of the game, likely as a result of the afternoon start time, were massive. The delays resulted in a huge number of seats being vacant when Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez hurled the game’s first pitch.
Sanchez would not need much offensive backup on this day, with his curveball fooling the Indians at every turn. Sanchez pitched six solid innings, allowing just one run off two hits while striking-out five.
Cleveland missed a good opportunity to open the scoring in the third inning when Tyler Naquin collected the first hit of the game for the Indians, leading off with a double.
A Roberto Perez sacrifice bunt moved him to third, but Naquin wasn’t able to score on a ground ball to second by Carlos Santana because Toronto’s Ryan Goins, with the infield drawn in, made a solid defensive play. After looking Naquin back to third, Goins got the out at first, and another groundout to second by Jason Kipnis kept the game deadlocked.
Rogers Centre had mostly filled in by this point and the gathering was rather sombre, with an expecting-the-worst block mentality.
That changed with a quick swing of the bat by Donaldson in the bottom of the third, launching a 2-2 Kluber curveball over the wall in left.
The crowd erupted with elation as Donaldson hustled around the base paths after his first homer of the postseason. It gave Toronto its first lead of the series.
“I thought we did a good job of battling,” Martin said. “Donaldson got it going, got a curveball in the middle of the plate and put a good swing on it. [Kluber] is definitely a tough guy to score runs against, but we found a way to get a couple there.”
Kluber was starting on only three days’ rest for the first time in his career, and that homer seemed to affect him a bit. In the Toronto fourth, he walked Tulowitzki, the leadoff batter, on four straight pitches before falling behind 3-0 to Martin – seven straight balls from the former Cy Young winner.
Martin eventually worked a walk before Carrera’s blooper scored Tulowitzki for made it a 2-0 lead for Toronto.
That would stand up as the winning run.
“It just seems like runs in this series aren’t coming too easy,” Martin said. “So whenever you get one you feel pretty good about it.”
Cleveland got one back in the top of the fifth when Perez doubled to score Coco Crisp from second. But an Edwin Encarnacion bases-loaded double in the seventh off reliever Bryan Shaw brought home two more Toronto runs to all but seal the victory.Report Typo/Error
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