Relieve-land: CLE stitching together history

Tribe's bullpen contributes brilliant 8 1/3 innings to pick up Bauer

Relieve-land: CLE stitching together history

TORONTO -- There is a small television in the visitors' bullpen at Rogers Centre. Before the phone rang, before any of the Indians' relievers knew what was happening or who might need to get loose, the pitchers watched the small screen behind the right-field fence, and saw blood dripping from Trevor Bauer's hand.

The nightmare scenario had become reality. The laceration that runs from the second knuckle to the fingernail on Bauer's right pinkie finger had burst open before he could even get through one inning. The relievers began scrambling, the bullpen phone finally rang and one of the great October performances unfolded in a 4-2 win over the Blue Jays in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Monday night. The win gave the Indians a 3-0 series lead and put them one win from the World Series.

ALCS Game 4: Today at 4 ET on TBS/Sportsnet/RDS

Game Date Matchup TV/Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 14 CLE 2, TOR 0 video
Gm 2 Oct. 15 CLE 2, TOR 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 17 CLE 4, TOR 2 video
Gm 4 Oct. 18 TOR 5, CLE 1 video
Gm 5 Oct. 19 CLE 3, TOR 0 video

"Our bullpen," Tribe manager Terry Francona said. "That's one of the most amazing jobs I've ever seen."

To clarify, it was a performance unlike any that had been seen before in postseasons past, and it put Cleveland one win away from sweeping Toronto and reaching the World Series for the first time since 1997.

The Indians established an AL postseason record by using seven pitchers in a nine-inning win. None of those arms -- not Bauer, or Dan Otero, or Jeff Manship, Zach McAllister, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen or Andrew Miller -- recorded more than five outs. That made Cleveland the first team in playoff history to win a game without a pitcher lasting two innings.

Otero, who is normally a setup man, relieved Bauer in the first inning. Allen, who is normally the closer, worked parts of the seventh and eighth. Miller, who is writing his own place in postseason history with his overpowering performance this October, retired the final four outs to pick up the save. In between, Francona cranked his levers and pushed his buttons and pulled off another miracle.

Indians postseason gear

"Tito, and the way he's managing," Indians team president Chris Antonetti said, "he's done it better than I've ever seen."

Francona on his 'pen management

Francona's maneuvering had its roots in the many conversations that he and Antonetti, pitching coach Mickey Callaway and head athletic trainer James Quinlan had in recent days. Bauer sliced open his hand in a freak accident late Thursday night, when he was working on one his personal drones. A propeller turned on, cut open his pinkie finger and made Monday more manic that expected.

Miller notches four-out save

The hope was that Bauer could pitch deep into the game, as his pinkie finger does not actually impact any of his pitches. When the wound broke open four batters into the first inning, though, that ended that prospect. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons complained to home-plate umpire Brian Gorman, and Bauer was soon walking off to a mocking cheers from the rowdy Toronto crowd.

"That was the loudest standing ovation I've ever gotten after an outing," Bauer said.

All Indians relievers available for Game 4

Out in the bullpen, the relievers had already moved down from their perch, which overlooks right right-field wall. The whole lot was getting loose, unsure of who was going to enter first. With runners on first and second base and two outs, Francona wanted someone who could escape the jam. The manager turned to Otero, who had a 1.53 ERA, 62 percent ground-ball rate and 82 percent left-on-base rate this season.

Shaw earns win in relief

"A bunch of us started moving around," Otero said. "My name was called, so I had the privilege of warming up in front of 60,000 screaming fans."

Otero induced an inning-ending grounder in the first and allowed one run -- via a leadoff homer by Michael Saunders in the second -- in his 1 1/3 innings. From there, Manship worked 1 1/3 innings, McAllister logged one and then Francona leaned on his late-inning trio of Shaw, Allen and Miller to finish the job. Those three combined to record the final 14 outs, including seven strikeouts.

This time, though, Francona went with Allen before Miller.

Indians on bullpen in win

"I was little bit surprised," Miller said. "It seemed like it lined up a lot lately where Cody had the last outs, but you know, Tito, Mickey, whoever it is coming up with a plan, we've got it, we execute it and I think all of us out there trust him. Nobody is caught off-guard."

That last sentiment even applied to Bauer's early exit.

"There was no panic at all," McAllister said. "Everyone was ready."

That calm resulted from experience.

During the regular season, the Tribe led the AL with seven games that included at least eight pitchers. Four of those came in September, when injuries to starters Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco necessitated a series of bullpen games. The most extreme case came on Sept. 17, when Carrasco had his right hand broken by a line drive two pitches in a start. The bullpen then logged 10 shutout innings in a 1-0 win over Detroit.

Miller sizzles in ALCS

Cleveland's bullpen was asked to work eight-plus innings four times this season. All the group did was posted a 1.09 ERA and .133 opponents' average in those games.

"We're probably the only team prepared for this," Otero said.

"Going through that with Carlos in September," Allen said, "it was really unfortunate when it happened. We hated it for him. But, us going through that and winning that game like we did, there was no panic down there when Trevor got taken out in that first inning."

After the win, one that has the Indians on the cusp of a pennant, Bauer was grateful, and speechless.

"What words do you even put on that?" Bauer said. "Unbelievable, right?"

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.