TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Cleveland Indians 5-1 on Tuesday to stay alive in the American League Championship Series.
They’re facing another must-win situation in Game 5 on Wednesday at Rogers Centre. Here’s a look at five things to watch:
MARCO MAKES MARK
Blue Jays pitcher Marco Estrada has been one of the team’s most reliable pitchers in the post-season.
The right-hander was 2-1 with a 2.33 earned-run average last year and is 1-1 with a 1.65 ERA this year. He was dominant in a Game 1 AL Division Series win at Texas and went the distance in a losing effort in the ALCS opener.
“My job is to try to go nine innings and give up zero runs,” Estrada said. “So it doesn’t matter if it’s the last game of the season, the first game, you want to do that every time out.
“So that’s basically my thought is just to give the guys innings and try to shut out the other team.”
The Cleveland bullpen has been worked hard in this series.
Getting to Game 5 starter Ryan Merritt early is a top goal for the Blue Jays so that they can continue to tax the Indians’ relievers.
Cleveland used six relievers over 8 1/3 innings in Game 3 and needed three more innings of relief work in Game 4.
As strong as the Indians’ pitching staff has been in this series, the starting rotation has been decimated by injuries and eventually that fatigue will catch up to the bullpen.
The more Toronto puts the pressure on, the better the Blue Jays’ chances.
Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista returned to the leadoff spot for Game 3 but it has yet to spark his play at the plate.
He ended an 0-for-15 skid on Monday with a single but was 0 for 5 in Tuesday’s victory.
If Bautista can find his usual rhythm with the bat, Toronto could get closer to turning the tide in this series.
The Rogers Centre crowds are some of the loudest in the big leagues.
After a tepid showing Monday, the Blue Jays gave the boisterous home fans something to cheer about Tuesday when Josh Donaldson homered to open the scoring.
The players seemed to feed off the energy in the building and built off the early lead.
Another sellout crowd of around 49,000 fans is expected Wednesday afternoon.
ROOKIE ON THE BUMP
The Blue Jays planned to study video to learn more about Game 5 starter Ryan Merritt.
He has made one career big-league start and hasn’t pitched in the playoffs.
The 24-year-old left-hander made four appearances in the regular season, going 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA.
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