CLEVELAND -- When one of Ryan Merritt's teammates mentioned it late Wednesday night, the rookie pitcher assumed it was a joke. When text messages began arriving, buzzing the phones belonging to Merritt and his fiancee, they realized this was not a prank. Indians fans really had found their wedding registry.
After Merritt's memorable performance in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series helped clinch a 3-0 win over the Blue Jays, securing a spot in the World Series for Cleveland, Tribe fans began showing their thanks in gift purchases. While the Indians are hoping for a World Series trophy, Merritt knows for sure that he will have plenty of pillows, towels and kitchen items.
"They're probably going to buy it before our friends get to it," Merritt said with a laugh on Thursday. "Hopefully we don't end up with like five Keurigs or something."
Merritt's fiancee, Sarah Brushaber, was at Rogers Centre for Wednesday's victory. She spent the past few days in Toronto with Merritt, who was an emergency rotation replacement in the wake of a series of setbacks for the Tribe. Cleveland's change in plans forced some adjustments in the wedding planning, too. The engagement photos and marital counseling sessions they had planned for this month have been put on hold.
Among the earlier planning for their Jan. 27, 2017, wedding in Minnesota was some gift-picking at Target and Pottery Barn. In all, Ryan and Sarah scanned 65 items and posted the list online. At some point during Wednesday's game, the link to their registry page made it to social media. And while Merritt was handcuffing Toronto's lineup and helping the Tribe reach the World Series for the first time since 1997, word began spreading among Indians fans.
"Honestly, we didn't really believe it at first," Brushaber said. "We just kind of thought it was out there and people knew about it, but it's just unreal. That was just the last thing we expected to come out of this. It's just crazy. Honestly, I can't even comprehend that kind of support. That people not only care about Ryan's career, but care about his personal life, is just unbelievable."
As of early Thursday evening, 57 items had been "fulfilled" on their wedding registry. Brushaber laughed when asked what they will do if they receive a surplus of gifts.
"Oh my gosh. I don't even know," she said. "I guess return them and have money for groceries? I don't even know. That's crazy. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
Brushaber said she could tell Merritt was nervous in the hours leading up to Wednesday's game, but those nerves quickly shifted after the left-hander headed to the stadium in the afternoon.
"I was a little bit of a mess after that," she said. "Everything went so fast. It was crazy. I'm so happy for him. I knew he was nervous earlier in the day, but he's just so good at living in the moment, and he knows that he's done what he can to prepare and the rest is out of his control. I mean, I think I was probably definitely more nervous than him once he got out on the mound. He did great."
Merritt was more than great. He held the Blue Jays scoreless for 4 1/3 innings, pitching deep enough to allow relief ace Andrew Miller and the Indians' bullpen to handle the rest. After the game, Merritt celebrated with his team in a champagne-filled clubhouse and then eventually flew back to Cleveland.
When the Indians arrived back home, fans were waiting at the airport.
"When the security guy walked me over to all the fans," Merritt said, "they just kind of surrounded me and told me and were just yelling, 'Good job!' They appreciate everything. It was, I don't know, kind of a crazy moment. It was fun and kind of surreal."
Soon enough, Merritt can get back to helping Brushaber with the wedding plans. The lefty already pitched in big, mapping out their honeymoon to St. Lucia, an island in the Caribbean.
"I kind of took pride in setting up the honeymoon," Merritt said.
"He's so cute," Brushaber said. "That was just really nice that he got all that figured out."
Now, they just have to figure out what to do with all the gifts.
"I didn't know if it was real or not," Merritt said. "I really didn't put much thought into it. And then, I guess, today it's kind of been blowing up a little bit. People have just been texting me. I've seen some stuff going viral, saying that people were buying all this stuff from the registry. It's kind of crazy."
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.