Pillar Wins it With Walk-off Shot in Eleventh; Blue Jays 3, Indians 2

Kevin Pillar launched a no-doubt about it shot 440 feet to left center off of the first batter faced by Adam Cimber in the bottom of the eleventh to give the Toronto Blue Jays a 3-2 win over the Cleveland Indians on Friday night.

In a game of repeated missed opportunities by the Indians, the Blue Jays got the last laugh in walk-off fashion after twice tying the score in the middle innings.

The Indians loaded the bases in the top of the eleventh against the Toronto bullpen, but failed to deliver. Against reliever Jake Petricka, Yan Gomes singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Greg Allen walked, but Rajai Davis bunted into a force out at third. Francisco Lindor struck out swinging for the second out before another wild pitch moved both runners up. Jason Kipnis walked to load the bases and John Gibbons went to Danny Barnes, and he got Jose Ramirez to ground out sharply to second to waste a big scoring chance.

Pillar – Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Brad Hand, who worked the tenth and struck out three around a leadoff single and a one-out hit by pitch, returned to the mound for the lefty-lefty matchup with Rowdy Tellez in the home half of the eleventh and struck out the rookie looking on four pitches. Manager Terry Francona called on his young right-handed reliever Cimber to face the right-handed Pillar, but Cimber fell behind 2-1 before Pillar clouted a pitch low in the zone deep into the night to begin a celebration at the plate for the home club.

The Blue Jays improved to 64-77 with the win, while the Tribe dropped to 80-61 on the year.

The Toronto win erased a strong start from Carlos Carrasco and took advantage of one of the better starts by Marco Estrada in the second half.

Estrada worked around trouble in the second, when Edwin Encarnacion started the inning with the Indians’ first hit of the game. Two outs later, Gomes singled to right to move Brandon Guyer to third, but with runners on the corners, Allen struck out swinging.

Carrasco faced the minimum through the first four innings. The first hit of the game, a single by Richard Urena with one out in the third, was erased on a caught stealing before Carrasco struck out his fifth batter, Luke Maile, to end the inning.

The Indians took their first lead in the fifth. Estrada hit Allen to start the inning. He stole second and, after a fly out by Lindor, he was joined on the base paths on a walk by Kipnis. Ramirez put the Indians on the board with a single to center, but with two on, Encarnacion struck out swinging.

Carrasco continued to rack up the Ks in the fifth, but ran into trouble due to an error. Randal Grichuk struck out swinging to start the inning before the rookie Tellez doubled again. Pillar reached on an error at third by Ramirez to put runners on the corners and Aledmys Diaz lofted a sacrifice fly to right to tie the game at one. Urena struck out looking to end the threat.

Cleveland reclaimed the lead with a response of its own in the next half inning. Estrada got Yonder Alonso to pop out and Guyer to strike out to start the sixth, but Gomes homered to left on a 1-1 fastball to put the Indians up, 2-1.

The Indians left a pair on the bases in the seventh against the Blue Jays’ bullpen. Lindor walked with one out off of Tim Mayza and stole second. Ramirez walked, bringing Tyler Clippard on in relief. For the second time in a row with two on and two outs, Encarnacion was cut down swinging.

The doubles machine Tellez delivered another two-base hit and it was a big one after the stretch. Grichuk doubled to center to start the inning and Tellez did the same on the very next pitch, plating Grichuk from second to tie the game 2-2. Carrasco cleared the rest of the inning, leaving Tellez at third after a wild pitch.

The right-hander returned to the mound in the eighth, striking out two more batters to give him 14 on the night. In the inning, he gave up a single with one out to Billy McKinney and a two-out walk to Justin Smoak, but a fielder’s choice to Ramirez at third ended that threat.

The Indians got a runner at second in the ninth against Ken Giles, but again could not come through. Davis legged out an infield single with one down and swiped second. With the top of the order coming to the plate, Lindor lined out and Kipnis grounded out.

The Jays had a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth, but Neil Ramirez worked out of trouble. Tellez struck out to start the inning against Oliver Perez, but Pillar singled to center when Ramirez entered. Diaz struck out swinging for the second out, but Pillar picked off second and moved to third on a throwing error by Gomes. Urena flied to Allen in center to leave him stranded 90 feet away.

The Indians left another runner in the tenth, when Alonso singled with two outs off of Jose Fernandez, but Petricka came in and retired pinch-hitter Michael Brantley on a grounder.

Estrada provided the Jays with a quality start, striking out five and walking two in six innings. He was charged with two runs on five hits. Seven relievers followed him to the mound, proving five innings of three-hit, scoreless relief. Barnes took the win as the pitcher of record at the time of Pillar’s homer after throwing just three pitches.

Encarnacion – Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Carrasco matched a season high with 14 strikeouts in eight strong innings. He allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits with one walk allowed. Cimber took his first loss of the year with the Tribe after giving up the walk-off shot.

He became just the third pitcher in the Majors to record two games of 14+ strikeouts this season, joining Houston’s Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.

Neither team excelled with runners on base and both left a small village of base runners. Toronto went just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base. The Indians struggled even worse, going 1-for-12 with runners at second or third while leaving 13 men on base in the one-run loss.

Tellez and Pillar each had two hits on the night. For Tellez, it extended his doubles streak to three straight games and he now has six on the year. Gomes went 3-for-5 for the Tribe with two singles and his 13th homer. Lindor went 0-for-5 with a walk and was 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.

The Indians will look to guarantee a .500 record for the year on Saturday afternoon in a 4:07 PM ET start from Rogers Centre in game three with the Blue Jays. Rookie right-hander Sean Reid-Foley (1-2, 5.51) will look to build upon the best start of his big league career his last time out, when he struck out ten Marlins over seven innings of one-run baseball. Adam Plutko (4-5, 5.04) will counter for Cleveland, looking to end a four-game losing streak. He is winless since taking over for Trevor Bauer in the rotation.

Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

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