CLEVELAND -- When the Blue Jays' offense isn't scoring many runs, the margin for error becomes microscopic. Case in point: The Indians' go-ahead run in the third inning Saturday vs. lefty J.A. Happ.Cleveland's lone hit of the third came on an RBI single up the middle by star shortstop Francisco
CLEVELAND -- When the Blue Jays' offense isn't scoring many runs, the margin for error becomes microscopic. Case in point: The Indians' go-ahead run in the third inning Saturday vs. lefty J.A. Happ.
Cleveland's lone hit of the third came on an RBI single up the middle by star shortstop Francisco Lindor. The rest of the rally was pieced together with a leadoff walk, a stolen base by Rajai Davis and a wild pitch. It wasn't much, but it was still enough to send Toronto to a 2-1 loss in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series and put the Jays in a 2-0 hole.
• ALCS Game 3: Monday at 8 p.m. ET on TBS/Sportsnet/RDS
The Indians have yet to record more than one hit in an inning vs. the Blue Jays, yet they head north with a commanding ALCS lead. When a team takes the first two games of a best-of-seven series, it has advanced 66 out of 79 times.
:: ALCS: Blue Jays vs. Indians coverage ::
"Leadoff walks, they tend to always come in, some way or the other, and that's kind of what happened there," Happ said. "I felt like I made a pretty good pitch to Lindor, and he hit a ground ball up the middle. Tip your cap. I don't know. But the leadoff walk kind of set all of that up."
Happ's issues in the third began when he walked No. 9 hitter Roberto Pérez, who hit .183 during the regular season, on eight pitches. That's not the way a pitcher wants to begin any inning, but it becomes even more problematic when the top of the order is due up next.
There was some initial hope on Toronto's side that Happ would be able to escape when he induced a ground ball to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. After the game, Happ called it a "tailor-made double play," but it was anything but because it was hit by the speedy Davis.
According to Statcast™, Perez did his part to break up the double play by reaching second base in 3.68 seconds, the fastest time he has been clocked at this year. His presence also had an impact on second baseman Darwin Barney, whose velocity was limited to 72.4 mph on his throw to first. Davis sealed the deal by reaching first in 4.07 seconds in a top-15 finish for him on non-bunt attempts this year.
Once Davis reached base with one out, it was only a matter of time before he took off for second. Happ knew it. Catcher Russell Martin knew it. Everybody in the stadium knew it. But that doesn't necessarily matter when the AL leader in stolen bases is ready to take off. Add in the fact that opponents were 7-for-8 in stolen-base attempts vs. Happ this season, and it was trouble in the making.
"I was extra aggressive against Happ," Davis said. "I was going on something we kind of discovered just kind of watching film. He was doing the same thing, so I kind of took advantage of what I saw, and I trusted what I saw. And I was able to be aggressive on the first pitch and get to second."
Statcast™ provides an even clearer picture on how aggressive Davis was during this situation. The outfielder was fifth in the Majors this season with an average lead of 12 feet on stolen-base attempts. In this case, his lead was 14.3 feet against Happ, who didn't pick off a batter all year. Davis essentially had the base stolen before Happ even released the ball, which left Martin with no chance behind the plate. Davis then advanced to third when Happ threw a wild pitch that got away from Martin
After Happ got Jason Kipnis to fly out to left for the second out, Lindor stepped to the plate. Lindor delivered the big blow in Game 1 with a two-run homer off Marco Estrada. He was back at it again on Saturday with a single up the middle on a first-pitch 91-mph fastball on the outer half of the plate. Just like that, Cleveland took a 2-1 lead it would not relinquish.
"The guys in front of me have put me in these situations with an opportunity to contribute," Lindor said. "I'm just trying to stay calm and be myself, and whatever happens is going to happen. Don't think too much, like I did my last two at-bats. Just stay calm."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.