Blue Jays stay alive, Dodgers ease ahead of Cubs
The Toronto Blue Jays kept their hopes of reaching Major League Baseball’s World Series alive on Tuesday with a 5-1 home victory over the Cleveland Indians.
The Blue Jays denied the Indians a four-game sweep of the best-of-seven American League Championship Series, which will send the winners into a title showdown with either the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cubs, trying to end a World Series drought that stretches back to 1908, slipped 2-1 down in the National League Championship Series with a 6-0 game-three defeat in Los Angeles.
In Toronto, Josh Donaldson homered, Edwin Encarnacion drove in two runs and Aaron Sanchez pitched six strong innings for the Blue Jays, who handed Cleveland their first defeat of the post-season.
Ezequiel Carrera singled in a run in the fourth to put Toronto up 2-0.
Robert Perez doubled in a run for Cleveland to trim the deficit, but with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh Encarnacion smacked a single to center that scored two runs to stretch Toronto’s lead to 4-1, and they tacked on another run in the bottom of the eighth.
“They hit better than us, they pitched better than us, they played defense better than us today, so they deserved to win,” Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor said. “Their hitters looked a lot better today, a lot more comfortable.”
Toronto host game five on Wednesday, with the Indians again aiming to secure their first World Series appearance since 1997, when they were beaten by the Florida Marlins in a seven-game thriller.
Cleveland last won it all back in 1948.
Down 3-1 in the series, the Blue Jays still face a formidable task.
The only baseball team to overcome a 3-0 post-season series deficit was the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who rallied past the New York Yankees in the ALCS.
“It’s an uphill battle,” said Donaldson, who belted his first homer of the playoffs off Cleveland starter Corey Kluber in the third inning. “We’re still down three games to one. It’s a must win each and every game.
“They have a good team over there, we understand that and we’re just going to continue to go out there and handle and control the things that we can.”
Dodgers rough up Arrieta
In Los Angeles, Yasmani Grandal and Justin Turner homered off Cubs ace Jake Arrieta to help the Dodgers to a 2-1 series lead with games four and five coming up in Los Angeles on Wednesday and Thursday.
Los Angeles starting pitcher Rich Hill allowed just two hits with six strikeouts over six scoreless innings as the Cubs were shut out in back-to-back games for the first time since May of 2014.
Hill, who just 14 months ago was with an independent league team having bounced around and out of the major leagues, called it the biggest game of his career, although he said he couldn’t afford to think about that during the contest.
“”It’s all about staying in the moment and executing when you’re in that moment and that’s all you can think about,” Hill said.
Cy Young Award-winner Arrieta, who pitched a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium in August of last year, gave up six hits in five-plus innings, including Grandal’s two-run blast in the fourth and Turner’s solo shot in to lead off the sixth that spelled the end of Arrieta’s night.
Corey Seager had opened the Dodgers’ account with a run-scoring single in the third, and the Dodgers added two more runs in the eighth.
Dodgers relief pitchers Joe Blanton and Grant Dayton combined to throw 1 2/3 scoreless innings before closer Kenley Jansen recorded the final four outs.
“More than anything, I think we need to get a couple runs and hits and runs early to try to get that kind of feeling back,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whose team haven’t scored since the eighth inning of game one of the series in Chicago on Saturday.
Despite the Cubs’ offensive struggles, Grandal said the Dodgers couldn’t take anything for granted against the team that posted the best regular-season record in baseball.
“You can’t look ahead,” Grandal said. “These guys won 100-some games. They’ve got the talent. When you think ahead, that’s when bad things happen.”