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Blue Jays’ season on the brink after Indians take 3-0 series lead

Jason Kipnis celebrates with his teammate Francisco Lindor after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning against Marcus Stroman.

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If ever there was a game that was teed up for the Toronto Blue Jays to win, it was this one.

The team was playing at home in the friendly, not to mention frenzied, confines of Rogers Centre.

Trevor Bauer, the Cleveland Indians starting pitcher, with the drone-mangled pinkie finger on his throwing hand leaking blood like a faucet, could not get out of the first inning.

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And the Blue Jays had Marcus Stroman on the mound; the tightly wound righthander has displayed a knack for coming up big when the stakes are at their highest.

But Stroman was off, the Toronto offence continued to sputter, and the hometown crowd, try as they might, could not lift the Blue Jays out of their continuing doldrums.

The result was a 4-2 Cleveland win that has dumped the Blue Jays in a huge 3-0 crater in their best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

The Indians are in position to sweep the Blue Jays on Tuesday when Game 4 will be played at Rogers Centre.

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"I don't know what I can really say at this point other than we're going to come out and play (on Tuesday), play like we have, play for the city like we have," said Toronto reliever Jason Grilli.

"We have a good group of men in this room and we have each other's back. So (Tuesday's game is) the most important game of our season."

With the scored knotted at 2-2 heading into the sixth inning, Stroman allowed a leadoff home run by Jason Kipnis. Stroman left the game after he surrendered a subsequent walk to Mike Napoli, the next batter.

On the night, Stroman would allow four runs off just three hits, but two of them went for home runs and proved his downfall.

With Joe Biagini on the mound, Napoli – not exactly renowned for his speed – was easily able to get to steal second base on a wild pitch. Napoli then came around to score to move Cleveland ahead 4-2 on a flare to right by Jose Ramirez.

A two-run lead heading into the late innings is money in the bank for the Indians, who called upon relievers Cody Allen and the dominating Andrew Miller to work from the seventh inning on to polish off the Blue Jays.

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Stroman entered Monday's game battle-tested in key moments – he did a good job in Toronto's AL wild-card win over Baltimore when he allowed just two runs on four hits over six inning in a game the Blue Jays would go on to win 5-2 in 11 innings.

But he's never had a 12-day layoff for a postseason start like he had going into Monday's game – not that something like that would ever concern the cocksure Stroman.

"I'll be locked in regardless of how many days it is in between starts," he insisted on Sunday.

But Stroman did not exactly get off the start he wanted when he walked Carlos Santana, the Cleveland leadoff batter, on five pitches to begin the game.

And that's rarely good.

With two out, Napoli drove one to right-centre that sent Jose Bautista scampering back to the wall. He did a good job just to get his glove on the ball, but the ball flipped out of the pocket as his momentum carried him into the wall and Santana scored all the way from first on the double that provided Cleveland with the early 1-0 lead.

Bauer was supposed to get the start in Game 2 on Saturday but had it pushed back to Monday after he sliced open the pinkie finger on his throwing hand while trying to repair a drone.

But the blood soon began to flow from the cut as he started into the game and, with runners at first and second and two out in the first inning, Bauer was forced to leave the game after only 21 pitches.

Toronto catcher Russell Martin said that might not have been a good thing for Toronto's fortunes.

"I wouldn't mind getting some bats against that guy," he said. "I feel like I see the ball pretty well against him. Personally, I wished he would have stayed in that game."

Dan Otero replaced him on the mound as the conga line from the Cleveland bullpen was on, and Otero got Russell Martin to ground out to end the inning.

Bauer's early exit will mean that Corey Kluber, Cleveland's winner in game one, will get the start on Tuesday on just three days rest. The Blue Jays will counter with Aaron Sanchez, arguably their best pitcher on the year.

The Blue Jays drew even in the second on a Michael Saunders home run to left field, his fifth hit of the series.

Saunders' blast snapped a string of 28 consecutive innings by the Blue Jays without hitting a home run.

Napoli responded with a solo home run of his own, his first of the postseason, to straightaway centre in the fourth to restore Cleveland's one-run lead.

But Toronto fought back when Ezequiel Carrera – dropped to eighth in the batting order when Toronto manager John Gibbons elected to insert Jose Bautista into the leadoff spot to try an ignite a stagnant attack – tripled leading off the fifth.

It was Carrera's second hit of the night and he would come in to score to tie the game at 2-2 on a ground out by Ryan Goins.

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