Source: AP Exchange
Five games. Eight runs. Two shutout losses.
A power-laden Toronto Blue Jays lineup fizzled against Cleveland, finishing off a five-game AL Championship Series wipeout with a 3-0 loss Wednesday.
Bidding to return to the World Series for the first time since 1993, the Blue Jays lost in the ALCS for the second straight year, following last year’s six-game defeat against eventual champion Kansas City. Toronto was held to six hits by rookie Ryan Merritt and three relievers in the Indians’ second shutout of the ALCS.
“We never really had a big inning, never were able to really string some hits together and get a rally going,” Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin said. “You can point the finger at us and say we didn’t do a good job, or you can point the finger at those guys. To get us out, you have to pitch well. You have to, and they did.”
No Cleveland pitcher was tougher than ALCS MVP Andrew Miller, who struck out 13 in 7 2/3 scoreless innings.
“It’s not easy to go through lineups like this,” Miller said. Still, the lefty sure made it look simple against the Blue Jays, who struck out 50 times over the five games.
An offense led by Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzkiproduced seven extra-base hits in the series — three doubles, two triples and two solo home runs. The Blue Jays hit just .201; Cleveland was even worse at .168.
“I’m sure there will be some disappointments and grumbling and complaining about how you fell short again, but that’s not coming from me,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “I know what these guys did, and I think it’s a pretty good accomplishment. The key is we want to take that next step one of these days. Hopefully it’s next year.”
Bautista , who turned 36 Wednesday, and the 33-year-old Encarnacion may have been playing for the Blue Jays for the final time. Both are eligible for free agency, a subject neither wanted to address in a somber clubhouse.
“I don’t think it’s the right time to be taking about that,” Bautista said. “We just battled through a tough series. I don’t want to make this about myself, and I don’t really feel like I’m in the proper state of mind to be taking about that. I know it’s a possibility but we’ll see what happens.”
Gibbons said his two sluggers “helped put this team back on the map” after Toronto went 22 years between postseason appearances.
“We were staring at a playoff drought for a lot of years around here,” Gibbons said. “And they came through for the team last year, the organization, and then repeated it this year. And they really — both of them — made their name here in Toronto.”
Toronto slugged past Baltimore in the wild card game, winning on Encarnacion’s 11th-inning home run. The Blue Jays swept Texas in the Division Series, outhomering the Rangers 8-2 and outscoring them 22-10.
Bautista’s two hits in the finale left him 3 for 18 (.167) with no RBIs in the series, while Encarnacion was 4 for 19 (.211) and drove in two runs. Tulowitzki was 2 for 18 (.111) with no RBIs and Donaldson 6 for 18 (.333) with two RBIs.
“I know that I’m capable of doing a lot more,” Bautista said. “They pitched great. It was tough. They seemed to make the right pitches at the right time and got us out.”
Martin, who chased Merritt with a one-out bloop single in the fifth and advanced on pinch-hitter Michael Saunders’s hit, was Toronto’s only runner to reach scoring position. Reliever Bryan Shaw fanned Ezequiel Carrera and Kevin Pillar.
Toronto’s offensive funk was remarkable given the shaky state of Cleveland’s starting pitching. Carlos Carrasco (broken hand) and Danny Salazar (forearm) have missed the entire postseason, and right-hander Trevor Bauer left Game 3 after four batters when blood began dripping from his right pinkie, sliced open last week while he repaired a drone.
The Blue Jays hit .120 (3 for 25) with runners in scoring position.
“They never let us string base hits together,” Bautista said, “and when we had men in scoring position they seemed to turn it up a notch and go to another level of execution.”