TORONTO -- The principals of the 'pen were gathered together in the trainer's room in the bowels of the Rogers Centre, having just received their respective rubdowns, when they saw the gory images more suitable for a Halloween flick than a baseball field.This Indians' starting staff was already short-handed, but
TORONTO -- The principals of the 'pen were gathered together in the trainer's room in the bowels of the Rogers Centre, having just received their respective rubdowns, when they saw the gory images more suitable for a Halloween flick than a baseball field.
This Indians' starting staff was already short-handed, but now, with Trevor Bauer's pinkie pouring blood on the mound, it had come up short-fingered, too. And Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen and Andrew Miller knew then that Game 3 of this American League Championship Series with the Blue Jays would not be an ordinary one.
"Well," Allen said aloud, "here we go."
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There they went, one by one, the trail of Tribe relievers stopping the bleeding by plowing through the purportedly potent Blue Jays lineup, while a suddenly awoken Mike Napoli, Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez took care of the rest. The Indians' ridiculous postseason run is now up to six straight victories, and this one Monday night -- a 4-2 win that put them on the precipice of baseball's Promised Land -- was by far the most inconceivable yet.
"Good teams," Bauer said, "find a way to overcome circumstances."
That was, of course, a not-so-subtle shot at José Bautista's workout day comments alluding to "circumstances" with the strike zone, but Bautista, who did not talk to the media after Toronto's latest loss, was only part of the controversy surrounding this one.
In the hours leading up to Game 3, the Indians had their very identity called into question. An activist on behalf of indigenous people urged an Ontario court to block the club from using its team name and Chief Wahoo logo on the road uniforms. Superior Court Justice Tom McEwen dismissed the suit, and then the Indians suited up with the Chief on their cap.
This was, actually, an interesting plot point. The starting pitcher selects the uniform and, on the road, Bauer typically goes with the grays that are accompanied by the block-C cap.
So why did Bauer choose the alternate combination of navy blue jersey with Wahoo up top? Superstition (the Indians had worn Wahoo every game this postseason)? Trolling?
Neither, in fact.
"Blood," Bauer said, "doesn't show on blue."
Ah, but this much blood was impossible to miss. Bauer felt the first trickle on his ring finger while facing Troy Tulowitzki, and, right away, he knew he was done. The Tribe and the umpires had thoroughly discussed the situation in the lead-up, and it was made clear that if blood -- in this case defined as a "foreign substance" -- began to drip on the ball, Bauer would be removed.
Two outs into the first, with the ugly appendage broadcasted to a couple countries -- and, importantly, the Blue Jays' clubhouse -- Toronto manager John Gibbons gave the word to home-plate umpire Brian Gorman. Bauer walked off the field to the cheers and jeers of the blue-clad crowd in his blood-stained pants, which could find themselves either in a Cooperstown exhibit next to Curt Schilling's bloody sock or, perhaps, a Tide commercial.
In any event, the Indians needed 25 more outs. It was a situation eerily similar to when Carlos Carrasco suffered a broken hand on a comebacker on the second pitch of a mid-September game against the Tigers, with the notable difference being the Tribe was playing that game with an expanded roster and, you know, it wasn't the freaking ALCS.
Perhaps, though, there was something to that test run, not to mention the multiple "bullpen days" the Indians had to piece together in the September sked with both Carrasco and Danny Salazar on the shelf.
"They've got some different weapons over there," Gibbons said.
Here in October, essentially the only weapons have been Miller, Allen and Shaw, who had accounted for all but one of the Tribe's postseason relief innings. And so the 'pen Terry Francona had to employ early and often in this one was in need of a few blasts of WD-40.
Dan Otero relieved Bauer. He hadn't pitched in 10 days. Jeff Manship relieved Otero. He hadn't pitched in 16. Next up was Zach McAllister, last seen roaming the mound way back on Sept. 28. So effective was the three-headed monster in the backend that the Indians had to have these guys throw a simulated session at Progressive Field in the aftermath of Game 2.
This was no simulated session.
But save for the solo shot Otero served up to Michael Saunders and Ezequiel Carrera's leadoff triple off McAllister that set up a run in the fifth, the Tribe's lesser-known relief arms were pretty much perfect. The underrated offense once again came through when it counted, and then the Shaw-Allen-Miller troika -- dispatched this time in a different order than we've grown accustomed to -- did their thing.
Cleveland became the first team in history to win a postseason game without any of its pitchers recording more than five outs.
"That's one of the most amazing jobs I've ever seen," Francona said. "I mean, starting with Otero to Manship to McAllister to Shaw. If anybody has a hiccup, we probably lose."
There have been no hiccups here, even amid all the hiccups. You're not supposed to go to the World Series with a rotation that is basically an episode of "Two and a Half Men."
This just isn't supposed to happen.
But now the Indians are sending their ace, Corey Kluber, to the hill today on short rest, with a shot at nailing down both an AL pennant and a ticket to some time off before the Fall Classic. A week without games would possibly give Bauer's finger time to start resembling an actual finger and not a crime scene.
"We'll get the assessment from our medical group," said team president Chris Antonetti, "but we believe that he'll be able to pitch again this series, if it goes long enough. And if we are fortunate enough to advance, then he still can be an option for us in the World Series."
The World Series. History insists the Indians are headed there. In the history of best-of-sevens, 34 of the 35 teams that have taken a 3-0 lead have gone on to close it out. The only exception was a 2004 Yankees team that fell to a club managed by Terry Francona.
So the Tribe has the right guy in the dugout, and the club also has a resiliency that, in a year without Michael Brantley and in a year in which its rotation has leaked oil and now blood, has come to be the team's calling card.
Maybe that judge did the Indians a solid in ensuring their name and logo remain intact. But the truth is, this club's identity, as we saw Tuesday night, extends beyond any appellation or image.
"This," Allen said, "is a true tribe."
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.