The Cleveland Indians, one of the historically least successful teams in Major League Baseball, moved one step closer to winning their first World Series title since 1948, defeating the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday at Rogers Centre, 3-0.
It's the first AL Pennant for the Tribe since 1997. They will host the World Series for the first time in club history.
The Indians, who entered the season with the No. 23 payroll, have the longest World Series title drought (67 years) in the American League, and could potentially face the Chicago Cubs, who have the longest title drought in the Majors (107 years). The Cubs trail the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series, 2-1, with Game 4 set for Wednesday night.
It's been a surprisingly successful sports year for Cleveland. The hard-luck sports town broke their long title drought that had dated back to 1964 this summer when the Cavaliers upset the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The last time a city won both the NBA Finals and the World Series was 1988, when Los Angeles accomplished the feat with the Lakers and Dodgers.
"It's been an extraordinary experience for the city of Cleveland," said owner Paul Dolan, after receiving the American League Championship trophy from legend Frank Robinson.
Game 5 of the ALCS was not much different from the other series games, which have been characterized by low scores. The Indians won the best-of-seven series by outscoring the Blue Jays 12-6.
Manager Terry Francona, who managed the Boston Red Sox to two World Series titles, received some excellent pitching from rookie starter Ryan Merritt, who was making just his second career start, along with relievers Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. Cleveland allowed just six hits over nine innings to go along with eight strikeouts and no walks.
"The only guy who probably got in his way was me," said Francona about Merritt's performance. "He may not look the part, but he is wise beyond his years. It's one of the most phenomenal things I have ever seen."
Cleveland used their power to get on the scoreboard, with Mike Napoli doubling home Francisco Lindor in the top of the first inning. Carlos Santana would add a solo shot in the third inning, and Coco Crips added another in the fourth.
It was a tough series for the Blue Jays, who had entered the postseason as a wild card with a high-powered offense. Toronto held off the Baltimore Orioles in the wild-card playoff, 5-2, and then swept the Texas Rangers behind 22 total runs.