Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was goofing around – just a bit, anyway – when discussing the importance of getting a win here on Saturday against the Cleveland Indians to level things off in their American League Championship Series.
“It would be nice to even this thing today, put it that way,” Gibbons said about three hours before the Blue Jays took to the field for game two. “It would be real nice, keep everybody off my [butt].
“I actually enjoyed walking around Toronto the last couple of weeks.”
Gibbons better keep indoors the next little while, or don a disguise if he ventures outside. The Blue Jays lost and the locals won’t be happy.
The Indians, with another impressive all-around pitching effort, held on for a 2-1 victory at Progressive Field to take a 2-0 stranglehold over Toronto in the best-of-seven ALCS.
The series will now shift to Toronto where the Blue Jays will attempt to regroup and try to forget about the likes of Cleveland relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, who have made a hash of the Blue Jays’ bats so far.
The third game of the series will be played Monday night at Rogers Centre.
In the history of the best-of-seven ALCS format all but three of the previous 27 teams to secure a 2-0 lead have gone on to advance into the World Series, so the Blue Jays will have to pull their work boots on.
“I know this group, been with this whole group the last couple of years,” Gibbons said after the latest setback. “And that’s never been an issue.”
For the second straight game, it was the Cleveland pitching that tipped the scales in its favour.
Starter Josh Tomlin was spot on with his command and handcuffed the would-be Blue Jays hitters, holding Toronto to just one run off three hits over 5.2 innings.
Toronto’s J.A. Happ was also effective over five innings, allowing both Cleveland runs off just four hits, including a solo home-run shot by Carlos Santana in the second inning.
“Disappointed that we didn’t pull that one out,” Happ said. “I would have liked to been out there a little bit longer, I felt like I was executing. But I can’t be too upset.
“Santana got me on that solo homer but the rest of the way I felt pretty good about that outing.”
For the seventh inning, Cleveland manager Terry Francona turned the ball over to Miller, who has been almost untouchable against Toronto over the first two games.
The 6-foot-7 lefty was overpowering, relying primarily on a nasty slider to work two perfect innings in protecting the Cleveland lead.
Miller faced six batters in total and struck out five of them, giving him a total of 10 over 3.2 innings of work in the first two playoff games.
“I just think he makes quality pitches and he’s deceptive,” said Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson, who was one of Miller’s strikeout victims.
“He’s good. I don’t have to sit here and tell you how good he is because everybody knows that.”
In the ninth inning, Miller gave way to Cody Allen, who continued the perfection with a three-up, three down inning.
In the two games, the supposed powerful Toronto offence has been held to just one run and 10 hits while striking out 25 times.
“We’ve pitched well, they’ve pitched well,” Donaldson said. “They’ve done enough to score enough runs to win the games and that’s what matters.
“Hopefully get a better idea these last couple of days of what they’re trying to do and get a better approach and hopefully be ready for Game 3.”
Gibbons altered his batting order slightly for Saturday’s game, flip-flopping Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki. Tulowitzki was batting fifth in behind cleanup hitter Jose Bautista while Martin was dropped to No. 6 in the order.
Martin has been in a horrible slide, his batting average in the playoffs having dipped to an embarrassing .050 after going just 1-for-20 with seven strikeouts in five games.
The switch had little effect, although Martin did collect one of the Toronto hits.
The Indians gained the early upper hand when Santana cranked a 1-1 Happ offering leading off the second and the ball rocketed over the wall in left for a home-run that moved Cleveland in front 1-0.
Toronto would draw even in the top of the third, a rally started with a one-out Darwin Barney single and he would come around to score on a Donaldson double to right-field.
For Donaldson, it was his ninth postseason double as a Blue Jay, the most in franchise history, one more than Devon White.
Cleveland did not wait long to once again assert itself – in the bottom of the third that began with former Blue Jay Rajai Davis stationed at first base on a fielder’s choice.
Davis stole second and then went to third on a wild pitch.
Davis then scored what would hold up as the winning run when Francisco Lindor singled to centre.Report Typo/Error
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