You can throw that 17-1 pasting the Toronto Blue Jays administered to the Cleveland Indians earlier this season out the window.
When these two teams hook up, the contests are generally as taut as a rusty spring with little to choose between two hard-driving baseball teams.
The Indians won the season series, 4-3, with four of the games decided by one run, including a memorable 19-inning marathon that unfolded in Toronto on July 1.
So with the two teams once again squaring off in the American League Championship Series it only figured that the same nail-biting scenario would be played out.
In a terrific pitching duel between two battle-tested playoff performers here on Friday night, it was the Indians who have gained the early upper hand in the playoff, jolting the Blue Jays with a 2-0 win in the first game of the ALCS.
The decisive blow was delivered by Francisco Lindor in the sixth inning when he connected on Estrada’s signature pitch, a changeup, and sent the ball winging over the wall in centre.
It was a two-run blast that lifted the capacity gathering numbering close to 38,000 at Progressive Field out of their seats in ecstasy, their beloved Indians now in possession of a 2-0 lead on a crisp autumn night.
The starters for each side, Corey Kluber for the Indians and Marco Estrada for the Blue Jays, were on their game as the scoreboard was filled with nothing but zeros through the first five innings before Lindor’s key blow.
The second game of the best-of-seven showdown will be played in Cleveland on Saturday afternoon.
The Blue Jays made the decision before the game not to include backup first baseman Justin Smoak on the 25-man roster of players eligible to participate in the series.
Toronto manager John Gibbons said it was a difficult decision, but one that was necessary given the uncertain health status of Devon Travis, and it proved a fortuitous move.
Travis had missed the last two games of the AL Division Series against the Rangers with a sore right knee but had recovered enough to be included on the ALCS roster. Travis got the start Friday night at second base.
Still, should Travis suffer a setback, Gibbons felt it was important to include utility infielder Ryan Goins on the series roster.
Sure enough, Goins’ inclusion on the roster proved critical when Travis appeared to reinjure his knee scampering over to cover first base on a sacrifice bunt in the fifth inning and had to come out of the game.
Goins can not only provide solid backup defensively at second and shortstop, but also at first base.
And with the Blue Jays wanting the added speed of Canadian Dalton Pompey on the roster as the fourth outfielder, there was no room left to squeeze in Smoak as well.
The Blue Jays also added pitcher Francisco Liriano, who has recovered from a concussion, to the roster, but he isn’t eligible to play until Saturday’s game.
Progressive Field was rocking for Cleveland’s first post-season game since the 2013 AL wild card game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
But there were some nervous early on moments for the towel-waving throng as the Blue Jays planted runners in scoring position against Kluber in each of the first four innings but could not cash in.
Toronto’s best opportunity came in the first when a Josh Donaldson single followed by a double from the continued heavy-hitting of Edwin Encarnacion left the Blue jays with runners at second and third with just one out.
But Kluber bore down to strike out Jose Bautista on three pitches before getting Russell Martin to ground out weakly to first.
It was Martin, batting fifth in the Toronto batting order, who was once again victimized by Kluber in the third inning, striking out with two gone and runners at first and second.
Estrada, meanwhile, was also effective, allowing just three singles over the first four innings.
The first time in the game the Indians were able to get a runner into scoring position se came in the fifth when Lonnie Chisenhall singled and was moved to second on a Coco Crisp sacrifice bunt.
Estrada would hang on to pitch a complete game, the first of the year for the Blue Jays and the first of Estrada’s career, allowing the two Cleveland runs off six hits with five strikeouts.
Kluber would work into the seventh inning, scattering six hits along the way to go with six strikeouts, before being replaced with one out by Andew Miller.
Miller is the Cleveland closer who, more often than not these days, is summoned into work early early by manager Terry Francona.
Miller responded as he usually does, with convincing authority, striking out five of the six batters he faced over 1.2 innings.Report Typo/Error
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