Indians Win ALCS, Cubs Even NLCS at 2-2
The city of Cleveland had gone 52 years without a sports championship before the Cavaliers downed the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals last spring. The Indians are four wins away from giving Cleveland its second title in four months.
The Indians have captured their first American League pennant since 1997 by blanking the Toronto Blue Jays for the second time in the AL Championship Series. Rookie Ryan Merritt combined with three relievers on a six-hitter as Cleveland posted a 3-0 shutout in Game 5 at Toronto.
Merritt's major league resume had consisted of 11 innings before he limited the Blue Jays to two hits and no walks while striking out three over 4 1/3 innings. He threw 49 pitches in his playoff debut and his first action since Sept. 30 against Kansas City.
Cleveland's bullpen was equally impressive. Bryan Shaw followed Merritt and worked in and out of a first-and-second jam in the fifth. Andrew Miller replaced Shaw and needed just one pitch to induce an inning-ending double play before working two more shutout innings. Cody Allen got the final three outs for his third save of the series.
Carlos Santana and Coco Crisp belted solo homers off losing pitcher Marco Estrada, who was reached for two earned runs and five hits over six innings. Santana's blast made it 2-0 in the third, one inning before Crisp went deep.
Francisco Lindor (lihn-DOHR') provided half of the Indians' six hits and scored the first run on an error by left fielder Ezequiel Carrera in the top of the first.
Miller was named the series MVP after the game. The lefty struck out 14 and held the Jays to three hits over 7 1/3 innings.
The Blue Jays' offense did little against the Indians in the series, scoring just eight runs and batting .201. Toronto hit .266 with 22 runs scored during their three-game sweep of Texas in the division series.
The Indians' 1.43 ERA in the series more than made up for the team's .168 batting average. The Indians will face either the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers as they try to win their first World Series crown since 1948.
The Cubs certainly didn't look like a ballclub that had been shut out for two consecutive games. Chicago has evened the NL Championship Series at two games apiece with a 10-2 drubbing of the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
The Cubs had gone 21 consecutive scoreless innings before erupting for four runs in the top of the fourth. Willson Contreras ended the drought with an RBI single and Addison Russell capped the rally with a two-run homer.
Anthony Rizzo also had a big night at the plate, going 3-for-5 with a solo blast and three RBIs.
Cubs reliever Mike Montgomery got the victory despite allowing Justin Turner's two-run single in the fifth. Montgomery entered after starter John Lackey, who was charged with two runs after giving up three hits and three walks over four-plus innings.
Julio Urias took the loss, surrendering four runs on four hits over 3 2/3 innings. The 20-year-old Urias became the youngest starting pitcher in postseason history.
Game 5 will be in Los Angeles Thursday night. Jon Lester will start for Chicago against Kenta Maeda (mah-AY'-duh).