Facing elimination, the Toronto Blue Jays were able to extend their season another day as their bats finally came to life in a 5-1 win Tuesday over the Cleveland Indians in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series.
Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, Ezequiel Carrera and Kevin Pillar all drove in runs as the Jays handed the Indians their first loss this postseason.
Pitching on short rest for the first time in his career, Indians ace Corey Kluber was chased after five innings of work and 89 pitches. Should the Tribe need a Game 7, Kluber likely would start the deciding game on short rest once again.
Three takeaways from Toronto's win.
1. Aaron Sanchez delivers again with season on the line. The AL ERA leader carried a no-hit bid into seventh inning on the final day of the regular season when the Jays clinched a postseason birth. The young right-hander was stellar again, hurling six innings of one-run ball in his second postseason start. He allowed just two hits with five strikeouts to give the Blue Jays their fourth consecutive postseason win when facing elimination at home.
2. Donaldson becoming Toronto's Mr. October. The reigning AL MVP impressed again with his bat and glove, putting the Jays up for good with a third-inning home run. Donaldson has now recorded 13 RBIs over his last 19 playoff games, dating to last season. He has hit in seven straight with a .480 average in that span. Donaldson also made an impressive play at third to end the fifth inning with a dive and throw to retire Carlos Santana and put to rest the Indians' rally.
3. Indians bullpen suffers rare meltdown. For the first time in this series, the Blue Jays scored twice in an inning. It was the two-run seventh, which began with a leadoff single and a throwing error by reliever Bryan Shaw. Cleveland elected to intentionally walk Donaldson to load the bases but Encarnacion made them pay with a two-run single. Shaw recorded just one out before getting pulled.
With all that's been said about the Indians' bullpen, the Jays have been more surprising this postseason. During the regular season, Toronto's bullpen recorded 32 losses, becoming the first team to reach the postseason with more than 30 such losses. The Jays turned it around of late and are riding a streak of 15 scoreless innings from relievers.
Encarnacion has now reached base safely in 17 of his 19 career playoff games.
Game 5: Indians at Blue Jays, Wednesday, 4 p.m. ET on TBS — Ryan Merritt, who has one career MLB start and 11 total career innings pitched, will take the ball for the Tribe while the Blue Jays look to continue their historic trek to win a series trailing 3-0. The 2004 Red Sox (ALCS vs. the Yankees), who were managed by current Indians skipper Terry Francona, remain the only team to rally from a 3-0 deficit to advance from a seven-game series. Marco Estrada, who hurled a complete game in Game 1, will toe the rubber for the Jays.