If you failed to enjoy the weekend series between the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays, you may need your baseball fandom card revoked. On Sunday, fans were treated to another classic pitching contribution and the Indians used more late innings magic as Jose Ramirez’s two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth gave Cleveland a 3-2 win over Toronto.
The late rally gave the Indians (71-51) a big series and season win over one of the best teams in the American League and will dispel some of the recent criticisms of the club that they cannot win big games against quality opponents. The victory kept the Indians seven games on top of the Detroit Tigers, who salvaged their series finale with the Boston Red Sox on Sunday afternoon. The Blue Jays (70-54) fought hard in the series in a big potential postseason matchup, but came away several late homers from sweeping the Tribe. Their lead in the AL East remained unchanged with Boston’s loss.
“We won two out of three, and I think we had the lead for like ten minutes,” said Indians manager Terry Francona after the big win.
Toronto starter Marcus Stroman started the eighth inning but was hooked after retiring Carlos Santana on a groundout. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons brought on left-hander Brett Cecil (1-7, 5.13) to face the left-handed hitting Jason Kipnis, who he retired on a liner before Francisco Lindor reached on a single. The very next pitch, Ramirez played the hero with a two-out, two-run shot to the Home Run Porch to give Cleveland a 3-2 lead.
Lonnie Chisenhall struck out to end the inning, turning the game to its final chapter with Cody Allen on to write the story. Two strikeouts of Ryan Goins and Devon Travis started the inning before Josh Donaldson walked in a lengthy at bat. Edwin Encarnacion followed with a five-pitch walk, but Russell Martin lined to Chisenhall to end the threat and give Cleveland the series win.
Allen’s save was his 24th in 27 opportunities this season.
Corey Kluber started for the Indians several hours earlier and had himself another quality start. He cut through the Blue Jays easily in the first two innings, but Melvin Upton Jr. jumped on him to lead off the third with a solo homer to give Toronto the lead. One out later, Goins walked but was erased stealing and Travis immediately doubled to deep right as Toronto ran itself out of a run. Donaldson, in his first appearance of the weekend, worked a deep at bat before singling to right to score Travis with the second run of the afternoon.
Stroman minimized Cleveland’s scoring opportunities throughout the early going. The Indians had leadoff base runners in the first three innings, but no runner advanced past second base and two double plays diffused the threats. In a stretch in the fourth and fifth innings, he struck out five of six batters he faced.
The Tribe finally made use of a leadoff base runner in the sixth, when Santana delivered his second single of the afternoon. Kipnis moved him up 90 feet with a single to right before Lindor cut the deficit in half with a single to left. But once again, the double play ball and a strikeout cut short a rally as Stroman got out of it.
Kluber’s day ended in the seventh in a dangerous spot. After retiring the first two hitters, he walked Goins and gave up a single to Travis. Donaldson walked on four straight pitches, spelling the end of his outing and bringing rookie righty Mike Clevinger (2-1, 5.12 ERA) on from the bullpen to face the scary Encarnacion. On four pitches, the rookie won, striking out the AL’s RBI leader looking. It did not come without some confusion, as Clevinger was called for a balk that scored Goins temporarily, but the ruling was reversed after a discussion between umpires and managers about the play in question.
MORE QUALITY WORK FROM KLUBER
Kluber kept the game close for Cleveland as run support because a question again for the Tribe’s number one starter.
He worked six and two-thirds innings, giving up two runs on six hits. He matched a season-high for walks in a start with four, incidentally done against Toronto on July 3 in a loss. He struck out eight, using 113 pitches (71 strikes) to get through his outing.
The Indians concluded their eleven-game homestand with an 8-3 record.
STROMAN STIFLES TRIBE
Stroman had another good start against Cleveland and again was left with nothing to show for it as he was dealt the no-decision after the blown save and loss by Cecil in relief.
The Blue Jays righty allowed just one run on seven hits over seven and one-third innings. He walked one and struck out nine and was aided by three separate double play balls that kept the Indians at bay.
CAN’T KEEP RAMIREZ OFF OF THE BASES
Ramirez extended his on-base streak to 27 consecutive games with his homer in the ninth inning, the longest active streak in the Majors. His homer was the second clutch shot of the weekend for the switch-hitting third baseman, who is hitting .377 during his nearly month-long string of successes at the plate.
“That’s a pretty good team,” said Jays manager Gibbons after the game. “They’ve got a dynamite offense, great pitching, a lot of speed, and a bunch of switch hitters. They got the best of us and Ramirez just wore us out.”
In what certainly seems like a strange and surprising move, the Blue Jays optioned Saturday’s starter Aaron Sanchez to High-A Dunedin on Sunday morning. The club recalled left-handed reliever Aaron Loup from Triple-A Buffalo in a corresponding roster move.
Sanchez, the 24-year-old right-hander and first time All-Star this season, took a no-decision on Saturday after allowing a five-run comeback to the Indians in the fourth inning to tie the game. In 24 starts this season, he has a 12-2 record with a 2.99 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. His last three starts have been a little shaky, as he has allowed ten earned runs in 17 innings of work, including the four earned to the Tribe over the weekend.
The Jays have been concerned about his work load, as he is already more than 54 innings above his previous career high for innings pitched in a season.
JAYS GET HEALTHY
Toronto had a full contingent of healthy players on the field as Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki were both in the lineup for the first time together in the series.
GO WEST, YOUNG MEN
The Indians now hit the road for the west coast for their final trip to the Pacific this season. They will play the Oakland Athletics for three games and the Texas Rangers for four before coming back home for another ten-game homestand.
Carlos Carrasco (8-6, 3.34) will take the mound for the Tribe in the opener, looking to expand upon solid numbers on the road this season. In nine road starts, he is 5-3 with a 1.97 ERA, compared to 3-3 with a 4.76 ERA at Progressive Field. Right-hander Andrew Triggs (0-1, 4.98) will toe the rubber first and make his fourth start of the season and 22nd appearance overall. The rookie has never faced the Indians.
First pitch from Oakland Coliseum is scheduled for 10:05 PM ET.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images