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Ryan Merritt proved he belonged by unleashing a knee-buckling curveball for strike three

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19: Ryan Merritt #54 of the Cleveland Indians throws a pitch in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) (Elsa/Getty Images)

It's hard to imagine more unconventional circumstances for the second start of Ryan Merritt's Major League career, but here we are. It was Game 5 of the ALCS on Wednesday night and Cleveland sent a guy with 11 career Major League innings out to start the game. How did Merritt respond? By retiring the first 10 batters he faced, of course.
In retrospect, it might be possible to pinpoint the exact moment Merritt proved he belonged on the mound for one of the biggest games of the year. With two outs in the first inning, Merritt faced Edwin Encarnacion who worked the count to 2-2 only for Merritt to unleash this absolutely perfect 72-mph curveball which just grabbed the outside corner for strike three:

That is a Major League pitch on baseball's brightest stage from a guy who lived in relative baseball anonymity until 48 hours ago.
He left the game with one out in the fifth, having yielded just two baserunners and no runs in one of the more improbable postseason starts in recent memory. Cleveland held on for a 3-0 victory and will face the winner of the Dodgers-Cubs series in Game 1 of the World Series starting Oct. 25 on FOX. The Indians will be looking for their first championship since 1948 -- the longest current title drought in the American League.