Bill Baer

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 17:  Mike Napoli #26 of the Cleveland Indians smiles as he runs home off of a single hit by Jose Ramirez #11 in the sixth inning against Joe Biagini #31 of the Toronto Blue Jays during game three of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 17, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Video: Mike Napoli provides the lumber in Indians’ ALCS Game 3 victory


If you forgot veteran slugger Mike Napoli was a force to be reckoned with, you weren’t alone. The 34-year-old entered Monday’s ALCS Game 3 versus the Blue Jays having gone hitless in the two prior ALCS games as well as the third and final game of the ALDS against the Red Sox. In total, Napoli was 2-for-18 with a single and a double in the 2016 postseason for an uninspiring .111/.111/.167 triple-slash line.

Napoli made his presence felt in Game 3 in a big way, providing some serious lumber. He opened the scoring with two outs in the bottom of the first, drilling an RBI double to right field that caromed off of Jose Bautista, allowing Carlos Santana to score. Napoli followed up in the fourth inning, swatting a no-doubt solo home run to center field off of Marcus Stroman, breaking a 1-1 tie.

Here’s what both hits looked like:

Jason Kipnis also hit a solo homer in the sixth inning off of Stroman. Two at-bats later, Stroman walked Napoli, ending his night. Reliever Joe Biagini came in and Jose Ramirez doubled Napoli home to provide the Indians an insurance run. Big night for Napoli.

No Bauer, no problem: Indians’ bullpen carrying club into the World Series

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 17:  Andrew Miller #24 of the Cleveland Indians throws a pitch in the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during game three of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 17, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The Indians’ bullpen did yeoman’s work on Monday night in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, recording 25 of 27 total outs in stellar fashion. Starter Trevor Bauer could only last two-thirds of an inning as the cut on his pinkie finger opened up, forcing home plate umpire Brian Gorman to instruct manager Terry Francona to take him out of the ballgame.

From there, Dan Otero, Jeff Manship, Zach McAllister, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, and Andrew Miller combined for 8 1/3 innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out eight. In particular, the back end of Shaw, Allen, and Miller combined for 14 outs with seven strikeouts and a walk while yielding just three hits.

Let’s add to that the bullpen’s Game 1 and 2 performances. In Game 1, Andrew Miller famously got five outs on five strikeouts while Cody Allen pitched a scoreless ninth for the save. In Game 2, Shaw got one out, Miller got six with five strikeouts, and Allen struck out two in the ninth for another save. And let’s then add in the bullpen’s stellar performance in the ALDS against the Red Sox.

Here’s a list of each relief performance in the postseason thus far for the Indians:

Miller 2 1 0 0 1 4 0
Shaw 2/3 1 1 1 0 0 1
Allen 1 2/3 2 0 0 0 4 0
Otero 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Shaw 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Miller 2 1 0 0 1 3 0
Shaw 2/3 1 1 1 0 1 0
Allen 1 1/3 2 0 0 2 1 0
Miller 1 2/3 1 0 0 0 5 0
Allen 1 0 0 0 0 1 0
Shaw 1/3 0 0 0 0 0 0
Miller 2 0 0 0 0 5 0
Allen 1 0 0 0 0 2 0
Otero 1 1/3 2 1 1 0 0 1
Manship 1 1/3 1 0 0 0 1 0
McAllister 1 1 1 1 0 0 0
Shaw 1 2/3 2 0 0 0 2 0
Allen 1 2/3 0 0 0 1 2 0
Miller 1 1/3 1 0 0 0 3 0
TOTAL 24 2/3 16 4 4 5 34 2

That’s a 1.46 ERA with a 12.4 K/9 and a 1.82 BB/9. Also note that in 12 of 19 appearances, manager Terry Francona asked a reliever to get more than three outs.

Here’s the totals for each reliever.

Name IP  ER  BB  SO  HR 
Miller 9 4 0 0 2 20 0
Allen 6 2/3 4 0 0 3 10 0
Shaw 4 1/3 4 2 2 0 3 1
Otero 2 1/3 2 1 1 0 0 1
Manship 1 1/3 1 0 0 0 1 0
McAllister 1 1 1 1 0 0 0
TOTAL 24 2/3 16 4 4 5 34 2

The importance of the Indians’ bullpen is underscored by the fact that the offense has scored only eight total runs in three games in the ALCS. They scored 15 runs in three games against the Red Sox.

The narrative following the World Series appearance by the Royals in 2014 followed by their championship last year is that a good back of the bullpen is crucial to postseason success. That’s true, but it goes deeper than that. Not only must a team have an elite bullpen, but a manger who can adeptly manage that bullpen. Francona has been doing just that for the Indians this October.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Indians will go for the ALCS sweep of the Blue Jays. Corey Kluber will start on short rest. While he’s been terrific in the playoffs thus far, it would not be surprising if Francona had to call on his bullpen for some important innings once again to punch their ticket to the World Series.

Indians stymie Blue Jays 4-2 to take commanding 3-0 lead in ALCS

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 17:  Trevor Bauer #47 of the Cleveland Indians walks back to the dugout after being relieved due to his cut pinky finger in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during game three of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 17, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Indians starter Trevor Bauer could only go two-thirds of an inning before departing as his stitched-up pinkie finger opened up and began dripping blood. Nevertheless, the Indians persevered and defeated the Blue Jays 4-2 in Game 3 of the ALCS to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. The Indians will have a chance to wrap it up on Tuesday and punch their ticket to the World Series.

The Indians gave Bauer an early lead when, after Carlos Santana drew a leadoff walk against starter Marcus Stroman, Mike Napoli swatted a two-out RBI double to right-center field that bounced off of Jose Bautista.

Bauer insisted his injury — suffered repairing a drone, something he built as a hobby — wouldn’t be an impediment despite it causing the Indians to push him back in their ALCS rotation. Bauer struck out Jose Bautista looking to begin the bottom of the first inning and it appeared to be smooth sailing. But he walked Josh Donaldson, got Edwin Encarnacion to line out, then walked Troy Tulowitzki to put runners on first and second base. The FS1 cameras showed Bauer’s right hand dripping blood.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons came out to speak with home plate umpire Brian Gorman, pointing out Bauer’s wound. Indians manager Terry Francona was on the mound discussing the issue with Bauer. Gorman came up to Francona and said the bleeding was “too much” and said Bauer would need to be replaced. Dan Otero took the mound and got Russell Martin to ground out to end the inning.

Michael Saunders drilled a solo homer to left field off of Otero in the bottom of the second, tying the game at 1-1. That marked the Jays’ first home run of the ALCS.

Napoli came through again for the Indians in the fourth, drilling a solo home run to center field off of Stroman to break the tie. Napoli also became the fifth player to hit a home run for four different teams in the postseason.

The Jays were able to knot things back up at 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning. Ezequiel Carrera laced a triple to right-center to lead off the frame. Ryan Goins knocked Carrera in with a ground out to shortstop. But that was the end of the Blue Jays’ offense, as the Indians’ bullpen continued to dominate.

Bryan Shaw got five outs, allowing two hits and striking out two batters. He yielded a leadoff single to Kevin Pillar in the seventh before being replaced by closer Cody Allen. Allen was able to get Carrera to fly out to right field. While pinch-hitter Justin Smoak was batting, Pillar stole second base. Allen, howeer, rebounded by striking Smoak out on a curve. Bautista worked a walk, but Donaldson lined out to left field to end the threat.

In the eighth, Shaw got Encarnacion to ground out before striking out Tulowitzki. Lefty Andrew Miller entered the game for the final four outs. He easily fanned Martin to send the game to the ninth.

The Indians threatened to score more runs in the top of the ninth against Roberto Osuna, putting runners on second and third with one out, but ultimately came up empty. Miller came back out for the bottom of the ninth. Miller worked around a leadoff single to Dioner Navarro, striking out Pillar and pinch-hitter B.J. Upton before inducing a game-ending ground out up the middle from Darwin Barney.

With a chance to clinch the ALCS, the Indians will send Corey Kluber out to the mound on short rest to face the Blue Jays in Game 4 on Tuesday at 4:00 PM EDT. The Jays will counter with Aaron Sanchez with their playoff lives on the line.