CLEVELAND – The Toronto Blue Jays find themselves in an 0-2 hole in the American League Championship Series, befuddled by Cleveland pitching for the second day in a row in a 2-1 Indians victory Saturday.
Following Corey Kluber’s stellar outing in Game 1, Josh Tomlin outshone J.A. Happ as the Indians starters continued to steal the spotlight from their Toronto counterparts.
The Cleveland bullpen was also on point, with Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen combining for 3 1/3 shutout innings. The Indians registered 13 strikeouts.
WATCH: ‘You got to give Tomlin a lot of credit – he was that good’: Gibbons (Oct. 15)
Cleveland outhit Toronto 4-3.
Miller, who struck out five in 1 2/3 innings Friday, added four more. He has struck out 10 of the 12 Jays he has faced in the series. Allen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his fourth save.
Toronto has yet to register a lead in the best-of-seven series, which resumes Monday in Toronto.
Carlos Santana hit a solo homer for Cleveland, which manufactured the go-ahead run in the third.
The Indians are the 28th team in LCS history to take a 2-0 lead since the introduction of the best-of-seven series in 1985. All but three of the previous 27 advanced to the World Series.
Since 1985, the team that has won Games 2 of the ALCS had reached the World Series 24 times in 30 series (80 per cent) including 15 of the last 17.
Saturday’s victory was a franchise record sixth straight for the Indians. They also posted four straight to end the 1920 World Series.
Including the regular season, Cleveland has now won eight in a row.
It was a sunny 24 degrees Celsius at first pitch at Progressive Field before a sellout crowd of 37,870, who gave their Cavaliers a standing ovation in the sixth inning when the NBA champions were shown in attendance on the big screen.
Tomlin (1-0), using his curve ball more than usual on the day, exited after yielding a two-out walk in the sixth. He had dispatched the nine previous Jays, striking out five in the process.
Only two pitchers in the majors gave up more homers than Tomlin’s 36 homers in the regular season. But the free-swinging Jays hit into one groundout after another, hitting just two balls in the air off Tomlin.
The right-hander gave up one run on three hits with six strikeouts and two walks in an impressive 85-pitch outing that featured 52 strikes.
Happ (0-1) yielded two runs in five innings on four hits with four strikeouts and one walk. He threw 94 pitches including 62 strikes.
Cleveland went ahead in the second on Santana’s leadoff homer, which left the bat at 110 m.p.h. and travelled 388 feet to left-centre. That snapped Happ’s streak of 24 2/3 innings without a homer.
A Darwin Barney single and Josh Donaldson double tied it at 1-1 in the third. It was Donaldson’s ninth playoff double as a Jay, surpassing Devon White’s franchise record of eight. Toronto, which left eight men on base in the Game 1 loss, stranded men on first and second as Tomlin struck out Jose Bautista to end the threat.
The Indians manufactured a go-ahead run in their half of the third with former Jay Rajai Davis reaching first on a fielder’s choice, stealing second, advancing to third on a wild pitch and scoring on Francisco Lindor’s single. Happ had walked catcher Francisco Perez, the No. 9 hitter, to open the inning.
Lindor, whose home run provided all the Cleveland offence needed in Game 1, went 2 for 4 to record his third straight multi-hit game – the first Indians player to do so in the post-season since Omar Vizquel in 1998.
Happ (20-4 with a 3.18 ERA) has been a difference-maker for Toronto this season. The Jays went 24-8 in his starts and 65-65 in all other regular-season games.
But as they did against Marco Estrada, the Indians cracked open the door for enough offence to carry them through with their pitchers doing the rest.
Toronto got three shutout innings in relief from Joe Biagini and Roberto Osuna.
Marcus Stroman starts Game 3 Monday for Toronto back at the Rogers Centre against Trevor Bauer, whose assignment was pushed back a game after cutting his finger doing “routine maintenance” on a drone.
Barney started at second base for the ailing Devon Travis (knee), who was replaced on the roster by Justin Smoak after the Jays got the roster move approved by Major League Baseball. Travis, who came into the series with a bone bruise on his knee, went back to Toronto for a second MRI after leaving Game 1 early in pain.
The Jays said Travis had a second injury, in the same area but separate from the bone bruise.
Toronto did get pitcher Francisco Liriano back in the lineup after clearing MLB concussion protocol.
Cleveland won Game 1 on the strength of shutout pitching from Kluber, Miller and Allen plus a home-run swing from Lindor.