The Indians placed the ball in the hands of rookie left-handed hurler Ryan Merritt, who channeled his inner Gene Bearden while making just his fifth Major League appearance, in blanking the Toronto Blue Jays for four and one-third innings as Cleveland clinched the American League pennant with a 3-0 shutout at Rogers Centre.
The Indians struck first against Blue Jays’ right-hander Marco Estrada. Mike Napoli‘s RBI-double plated Francisco Lindor after his two-out single to give Merritt some breathing room. Carlos Santana made it a 2-0 lead in the top of the third with a solo homer to right and Coco Crisp pushed the lead to three with a solo shot of his own to right.
Merritt threw three hitless innings before a Josh Donaldson single with one out in the fourth. He allowed just two hits before turning the game over to the bullpen, which notched the final 14 outs in relief. Manager Terry Francona relied on his work horses – Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen – to wrap up the ALCS, a series won four games to one by the Tribe.
Miller was named the series’ Most Valuable Player for his efforts. In the series against Toronto, the All-Star left-hander worked seven and two-thirds innings of scoreless baseball across four of the five games, allowing three hits with no walks. He struck out 14 of the 25 batters that he faced during the ALCS, earning three holds and one save.
For the Tribe, it marked their first World Series appearance since 1997 and just the sixth in franchise history. Cleveland won its first two trips in 1920 and 1948, but fell short in 1954, 1995, and 1997. They returned home from Toronto while waiting for the victor of the NLCS between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers.
“We’re going to the World Series,” said Miller during the celebrations. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Photo: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel