The Cleveland Indians are two wins away from returning to the World Series for the first time since 1997.
With clutch hitting, heads-up baserunning and a stellar bullpen, the Indians edged the Blue Jays 2-1 Saturday at Progressive Field to take a 2-0 game lead in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series.
Carlos Santana (solo homer) and Francisco Lindor (RBI single) provided the offense the Indians needed as Andrew Miller and the Tribe relievers finished off Josh Tomlin's stellar start. Cleveland will now head to Toronto in the driver's seat.
Three takeaways from Cleveland's win.
1. Indians just need the lead after the sixth inning. Miller and company will take it from there. Like the regular season, the Tribe is nearly unbeatable when relievers take over. The club has lost just five times this year when leading after six innings and have lost just once when leading after eight. Miller is a big reason why and has carried over his dominance into this postseason. The southpaw has faced 55 batters and allowed only four hits, three walks and no runs with an incredible 28 strikeouts. With the help of their bullpen the Indians haven't trailed the past 42 innings.
2. Lindor coming to age on the national stage. The 22-year-old is an early favorite for the ALCS MVP after showing off with his bat and glove yet again. The shortstop delivered the game-winning hit in the third inning, scoring Rajai Davis after he stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Lindor joined Derek Jeter as the only 22-year-olds to homer in ALCS on Friday, and in Game 2 Lindor had a Jeter-esque backhand, leap and throw to rob Jose Bautista of a hit in the second inning. Lindor is hitting .500 through two games of the ALCS and .350 with two homers and four RBIs this postseason.
3. Tomlin picking right time for season turnaround. Tomlin posted the worst month of his career in August, registering an 11.48 ERA in six starts, and was just 4-7 with a 5.59 ERA in 14 total appearances since the All-Star break. The right-hander allowed the third-most home runs during the regular season. But since Sept. 5 Tomlin has been stellar. He's posted a 1.93 ERA including Saturday's start of 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball. Tomlin struck out six Jays batters, scattering just three hits as Indians moved to 4-0 with a 1.88 ERA this postseason.
Game 3: Indians at Blue Jays, Monday, 8 p.m. ET on TBS — Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.26 ERA) takes the mound for the Indians after cutting the outside of his right pinky while repairing his drone, forcing him to be scratched from Game 2. Marcus Stroman (9-10, 4.37 ERA) toes the rubber looking to continue his success against Cleveland this year. Stroman has faced Cleveland twice, striking out 15 batters over 14 combined innings with just two runs allowed.