Los Angeles: Francisco Lindor belted a two-run home run on Friday to power the Cleveland Indians to a 2-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in game one of their American League Championship Series.
The home win in Cleveland gives the Indians the upper hand in the best-of-seven series that will send the winner to Major League Baseball’s World Series.
Starting pitcher Corey Kluber threw 6 1/3 innings for the Indians and combined with two relievers on the seven-hit shut-out.
Toronto’s Marco Estrada pitched a complete game surrendering six hits with five strikeouts and one walk.
The walk put Jason Kipnis on base in the sixth. Estrada then delivered a 78mph, 0-2 changeup to Lindor that the Indians’ All-Star shortstop belted over the wall in center field.
“Oh, man, it was unreal,” Lindor said, adding that he was expecting Toronto centre fielder Kevin Pillar was going to make the catch.
“As soon as it went out I put my hands out and said, ‘Thank God,’” Lindor said. “And I looked at the dugout and everybody was going insane.”
Kluber threw 100 pitches, 71 of them strikes. He struck out six and walked two before departing with one out in the seventh.
By then he’d had to work his way out of trouble several times. The Blue Jays put runners on base in each of the first three innings, only for Kluber to hold them to 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position through four frames.
“I think their whole lineup is dangerous,” Kluber said of the Blue Jays. “I made some mistakes early on, and they were able to take advantage of them for base hits. But it’s really just trying to stick with that same approach. Get ahead of them and put them in defensive counts.
“So, yeah, there were some stressful innings early on, but it wasn’t like the wheels were spinning kind of thing. I was doing a good job of getting ahead in the count, I just didn’t make good pitches once I was there, so it was just trying to fix that issue.”
Kluber departed to chants of appreciation from the crowd, Andrew Miller taking over with one out in the seventh. Closing pitcher Cody Allen pitched the ninth to record the save.
Game two is on Saturday in Cleveland, when the Indians send Josh Tomlin to the mound and the Blue Jays give the ball to J.A. Happ.
The winner of the series will duel in the World Series against either the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers, who open the National League Championship Series on Saturday.
The Cubs, the best team in baseball in the regular season, are vying to end a World Series drought that stretches back to 1908.
But they’re not the only club out to end a significant dry spell.
Cleveland haven’t won the World Series since 1948, the Dodgers since 1988.
Of the four teams still standing, Toronto won it all most recently, taking back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.