Indians Beat Blue Jays 2-1 – Take 2-0 Series Lead

josh-tomlin-vs-blue-jaysThe Cleveland Indians had little trouble getting past the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. But few gave them a chance against a rising Toronto Blue Jays team after injuries hit their starting pitching staff. Nevertheless, Cleveland now finds themselves up 2-0 in the ALCS.

For the second straight day, Cleveland shut down Toronto’s hitters en route to a 2-1 victory in Game 2. Starter Josh Tomlin turned in an inspired effort, allowing just 1 run and three hits over 5-plus innings. Middle reliever Andrew Miller struck out five of the six batters he threw against, and closer Cody Allen finished the Blue Jays in the ninth.

For the second consecutive game, the Indians could only muster two runs. But again, it was enough to beat a struggling Toronto lineup.

Shortstop Francisco Lindor supplied the offense when he hit a two-out RBI single in the third inning. Lindor was also the hero of Game 1, hitting a two-run homer in the Indian’s 2-0 Game 1 victory.

Action switches back to Toronto tomorrow night, where the Blue Jays hope that Rogers Centre is more kind to them than Progressive Field. Before we continue discussing this ALCS series, let’s look at the GTBets line for Game 3:

Game 3 of ALCS: Oct 17 at 8:05pm
Cleveland  +1.5 (-120); moneyline +168
Toronto  -1.5 (+100); moneyline -188

Breaking the Curse

Cleveland has had some strong teams over the past two decades, but they’ve failed to win a World Series title since 1948. So normally, fans would fear the worst, even with their Indians only 2 wins away from a World Series trip.

However, there’s reason for optimism, thanks to the Cleveland Cavaliers breaking the city’s title curse this year.

“Bringing that first championship to this city, we rallied around that,” said second baseman Jason Kipnis. “That’s going to be hard to beat, to break the curse. That being said – and it’s not just my opinion, it’s what I’ve gotten from people around Cleveland – the first Tribe or Browns championship has a little different ring to it.”

cleveland-toronto-blue-jaysAside from being fueled by the Cavs’ NBA championship, the Indians have provided reasons of their own to believe. Despite facing vaunted Boston and Toronto hitting lineups, Cleveland’s pitching has made them look silly in five postseason games.

The first result was a 3-0 sweep against Boston, and the Indians are currently on pace to sweep the Blue Jays.

A Review of Tomlin’s Performance

Game 2’s one-run pitching effort almost seems improbable.

Tomlin, who only started because Trevor Bauer sliced his pinkie open while fixing a drone, looked like a mere band-aid against Toronto. Topping out at only 89 mph with his fastball, Tomlin, as Kipnis put it, “had to work all 89 miles on that fastball.”

Rather than throwing a mediocre fastball into the teeth of the Blue Jays’ bats, Tomlin and catcher Roberto Perez came up with a plan to use curveballs over and over. This seemed like an effective strategy because the pitcher only threw 15 curveballs on 85 pitches the last time out against Toronto.

Tomlin used the strategy to perfection, keeping his curveballs low in the strike zone, leaving the Toronto batters reaching for many of them.

“The game kind of dictates what you do,” said Tomlin. “It’s going to be tough for me to sit there and throw 87, 88 all game long and be successful.”

Perez also called a good game, and Tomlin trusted him and drew motivation from his catcher’s words. One example was a big at-bat by Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion.

“Encarnacion is not going to beat us right here,” Perez told Tomlin during the game. “We’ve got to make pitches right now. Just follow me. Keep the ball down. And give me your best pitches.”

In 85 pitches, Tomlin produced 17 outs, with 10 coming on groundballs, six strikeouts, and one fly ball – an interesting ratio for a pitcher who has less than a 45% groundball rate. Tomlin was able to change his tendencies by throwing expert curveballs against a team that’s poor at hitting them.

Looking Ahead to Game 3

One of the best things for Cleveland is that they get an off-day for their overworked pitchers. Allen and Miller have pitched four times in the Indians’ five postseason games.

The results have been outstanding, with both combining to strike out 25 of the 38 batters they’ve faced. But both players also need a rest if they’re to keep up this strong pace.

“One of the things I’m most excited about tomorrow is Andrew Miller doesn’t have to throw any pitches,” said Kipnis. “Same with Cody Allen.”

Allen and Miller aren’t the only ones who could use the rest since there are other Cleveland heroes who’ve earned a break too. This includes Lindor, who, in addition to the offense, also saved a hit with a jump throw to first.

It seems like Toronto, who dispatched the Texas Rangers in three games, are due for a win now that they’re heading home. But with the way that Cleveland is playing, it’s tough to say whether home-field advantage will be enough for the Blue Jays.