CLEVELAND (AP) – Francisco Lindor hit a two-run homer and Corey Kluber silenced Toronto’s booming bats, giving the Cleveland Indians a 2-0 win over the Blue Jays in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series on Friday night.
Lindor connected in the sixth inning off Marco Estrada and raced around the bases like a track star as the bend-but-don’t-break Indians won their fourth straight playoff game in this most unexpected season.
Kluber, Cleveland’s solid and stoic ace, pitched 6 1/3 spotless innings before manager Terry Francona turned things over to the Indians’ best weapon – their bullpen.
Andrew Miller struck out five of the six batters he faced and Cody Allen got the save with a perfect ninth.
Toronto slugger Jose Bautista struck out three times and Edwin Encarnacion lost his cool when he was fanned in the eighth, jawing at plate umpire Laz Diaz.
After getting their first ALCS win since 2007 – and tying their longest postseason win streak since 1920 – the Indians will try to take a 2-0 lead Saturday with Josh Tomlin facing Toronto’s 20-game winner, J.A. Happ.
Tomlin was originally scheduled to start Game 3, but was moved up when Trevor Bauer sustained an odd injury as he sliced open his right pinkie while repairing a drone.
Kluber kept flying in the postseason.
The right-hander has not allowed a run in 13 1/3 innings this October and he kept the Blue Jays inside Progressive Field after they teed off against the Texas Rangers in the Division Series.
Toronto had some early chances, putting six runners on in the first three innings. But the Blue Jays failed to come up with a timely hit and lost for the first time in the postseason.
Estrada carried a four-hit shutout into the sixth before walking Jason Kipnis with one out. Lindor was in an 0-2 hole before the shortstop, who could become a household name before this series ends, drove his homer over the wall in right-center.
Lindor pumped his fist as he rounded first and he didn’t stop smiling or slow down until he crossed home plate.
Kluber dodged some early trouble and held the Blue Jays, who hit eight home runs and scored 22 times in their ALDS sweep of Texas, to six hits in the first six innings. The Indians needed every out they could get from Kluber, who shut out Boston for seven innings in his postseason debut 10 days after he injured a quadriceps in a start against Detroit.
The 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner, who will certainly get votes this season after winning 18 games, has been the only dependable starter all season for Cleveland, which lost starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar to injuries in September and are now dealing with Bauer’s mishap.
Kluber walked a tightrope over the first three innings, when the Blue Jays mounted what turned into idle threats.
Toronto had two on with one out in the first, but Kluber struck out Bautista and retired Russell Martin on an easy grounder. The right-hander was on shaky ground again in the second, allowing a single and walk before getting Devon Travis to ground into an inning-ending double play. In the third, Kluber gave up a single and a walk with two outs before striking out Martin.
Blue Jays lefty Francisco Liriano will be eligible to pitch Saturday after recovering from a concussion sustained in the ALDS when he was struck in the head by a line drive. Toronto played with a 24-man roster in the opener as Liriano remained in baseball’s seven-day concussion protocol. As a result, RHP Marcus Stroman – Toronto’s projected starter in Game 3 – was available in relief for Game 1.
Travis left in the fifth after aggravating a right knee injury. He sat out the final two games of the Division Series with a bone bruise.
Blue Jays: Happ struck out 11 and allowed one run over seven innings in beating the Indians on July 3. He was second in the AL in wins, going 20-4 with a 3.18 ERA. Happ picked up the victory in Game 2 of the ALDS against Texas, allowing one run in five innings.
Indians: Tomlin gave up three homers – to Martin, Melvin Upton Jr. and Encarnacion – in a loss to the Blue Jays on Aug. 20. Tomlin went 0-5 in August, but has bounced back and given up seven earned runs in 31 2/3 innings over his last six appearances.