TORONTO -- The Indians' offense broke out in the fifth inning, providing its pitching staff with a cushion it would badly need.
Cleveland plated seven runs in a two-homer, bat-around fifth inning that gave the Indians a lead they never surrendered in a 9-8 victory over the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre.
Roberto Pérez started the inning by taking a high fastball a projected 401 feet over the center-field wall -- according to Statcast™ -- for his second home run of the season. Three batters later, Michael Brantley crushed another high fastball to right-center field for a two-run go-ahead homer.
"That was good for him," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It's been a struggle for him at the plate at times, but you look up on the scoreboard during the games he catches, I think we're 12 or 13 games over .500. That says a lot about him."
After Jose Ramirez popped out for the second out of the inning, Toronto's pitchers seemed to lose the strike zone. Three straight walks brought to the plate Jason Kipnis, who never took the bat off his shoulder and recorded an RBI walk. Then Perez smacked a bases-clearing double to center field. The inning came to an end when Greg Allen flied out to right field, but only after the Indians took an 8-3 lead.
"It's nice to contribute to the team. Sometimes when you're not performing well you feel like you're not part of the team, but it takes time," Perez said.
It was the second time in the series that the Indians scored nine runs against the Blue Jays and the sixth time this season they've scored seven runs or more in an inning, the most in the Majors.
The Indians' pitching staff needed every bit of the offense on a day when Adam Plutko and the bullpen didn't have their best stuff.
Plutko surrendered five runs on nine hits over 4 2/3 innings. His afternoon came to an end after back-to-back homers by Randal Grichuk and Rowdy Tellez in the fifth inning.
"There were two shutdown-inning opportunities that I didn't capitalize on," Plutko said. "I felt like I could have put the game away right there if I could have thrown up a zero in the fifth. That didn't work out and that's why I think they hung around."
It was the fourth consecutive game in which Plutko was unable to record a quality start, and the outing raised his ERA to 5.35 on the season.
"When he misses his spots he really pays for it," Francona said. "When you don't have the velocity that maybe a Carlos Carrasco or Corey Kluber have, he's got to live on the outside of the plate and throw strikes. There's just a lot of deep counts."
Dan Otero didn't fare well either. After relieving Plutko in the fifth, he gave up a double to Kevin Pillar before ending the inning. He came back in the sixth, but after two quick outs, he walked Billy McKinney, then surrendered a double to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and a two-run single to Kendrys Morales. After allowing one more hit, Francona decided he had seen enough.
Tyler Olson followed, but he loaded the bases by walking the only batter he faced. Neil Ramírez came in and ended the threat by forcing Pillar to fly out to center.
Ramirez returned in the seventh, but gave up a leadoff double that later came around to score to pull the Blue Jays to within one.
"I put them in a tough spot only going 4 2/3," Plutko said. "We can't do things the way we want to later in the game, so I put them in a tough spot early in the game."
Oliver Pérez stabilized the bullpen, allowing just one hit over one inning pitched. He was followed by Josh Tomlin who recorded two outs and was awarded the win.
In the ninth, Cody Allen came in to protect the one-run lead. He surrendered a one-out double to bring the game-winning run to the plate, but he got the next two Blue Jays batters to fly out. It was Allen's 26th save of the season.
"He came in and made some really good pitches," Francona said. "There's obviously no wiggle room to make a mistake and he looked crisp, he threw his breaking ball, that was fun to watch."
Blue Jays starter Sean Reid-Foley was roughed up for six runs over 4 2/3 innings. He allowed five hits and five walks on 106 pitches.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Plutko gets out of early trouble: Francisco Lindor couldn't handle a grounder to open the game, allowing McKinney to reach on an infield single. After a bunt single and a fielder's choice moved McKinney to third with just one out, Plutko forced Grichuk to hit a shallow fly ball to right that couldn't score the go-ahead run, then Plutko got Tellez swinging to end the threat.
"We started out the game pretty sloppy," Francona said. "We put him in a tough spot, and he pitched out of that first inning."
Allen's catch saves Indians' lead: With the game-tying run in scoring position, Morales crushed a ball from Oliver Perez to deep center field. The ball came off Morales' bat at 103.1 mph and had an 87 percent hit probability, according to Statcast™, but Allen tracked it down, sprinting back to the ball to make the catch and preserve the Indians' one-run lead.
"He hit that ball pretty good, I left that ball right in the middle I think. He looked like he was ready for that pitch," Oliver Perez said. "That was a really good catch for us."
The Indians won the game despite allowing 18 hits for the first time since Aug. 23, 2006. They are now 18-48 in games in which they are out hit.
Mike Clevinger (11-7, 3.11 ERA) makes his second start against the Blue Jays this season at 1:07 p.m. ET on Sunday at Rogers Centre. The 27-year-old right-hander went just four innings allowing four runs against Toronto on April 13. He's pitched to a 1.82 ERA over his last five starts. Toronto sends rookie left-hander Thomas Pannone (1-1, 4.58) to the mound. Pannone has bounced between the rotation and the bullpen this season and has a 6.10 ERA in his two Major League starts.