Opportunities like game three for the Toronto Blue Jays don’t come around very often.
Down 2-0 against a Cleveland team with an all-world bullpen and pitching staff that has figured Toronto out, the Blue Jays caught a break just two outs into the ball game as Trevor Bauer was forced to leave due to heavy bleeding from his finger.
Out came the bullpen, and along came the Blue Jays’ chance to burn through Cleveland’s greatest asset en route to a reinvigorated 2-1 series at home.
Instead, Cleveland’s bullpen combined for eight and a third innings of two-run ball, allowing seven hits with eight strikeouts and only one walk given up.
Right-hander Bryan Shaw appeared to be an opening for the Blue Jays in the middle innings, but ended up with the win at the end of the night after throwing one and two-thirds scoreless. With Cody Allen and Andrew Miller combining for the final three frames, Toronto faced an uphill climb when it should have anything but. Credit is due to Cleveland manager Terry Francona who managed his bullpen brilliantly, something that’s become a running theme of the 2016 playoffs.
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As has been the case throughout these playoffs, the Blue Jays offence lacked production from the heart of the order. Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki, and Russell Martin — who now make up Toronto’s 3-4-5 with Jose Bautista batting leadoff — combined to go 0-for-11 with four strikeouts, three of which belonged to Martin.
Game three of a 2-0 series can be an ultimate tipping point. With a loss, the Blue Jays now need to be as close to perfect as possible and do something that’s rarely been done.
At SB Nation, Grant Bisbee looked at all MLB teams to face a 3-0 deficit. Of the 34 times this has happened, the 2004 Boston Red Sox remain the front-of-mind beacon of hope with their historic comeback to beat the New York Yankees.
Strangely enough, though, of these 34 teams, 29 have lost game four as well and taken a sweep. Two teams — the Atlanta Braves in 1998 and New York Mets in 1999 — have come back to win two games before ultimately dropping the series 4-2.
History and numbers don’t favour the Blue Jays, and after booting such a golden opportunity, perhaps the Baseball Gods don’t favour them either.