Tribe’s offense ineffective again
Kevin Pillar is nicknamed Superman because of his penchant for all-out diving catches in the outfield.
His latest might be the best he’s ever made.
Marcus Stroman pitched six shutout innings, Pillar made a sensational grab and the Toronto Blue Jays topped the Cleveland Indians 4-2 on Monday night.
“I just went out there to make a play,” Pillar said. “We’re playing short-handed right now and wins are tough to come by. We’re just trying to go out there and play hard.”
Already without regulars Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto put catcher Russell Martin on the 10-day disabled list before the game because of nerve irritation in his left shoulder.
No problem. Ryan Goins hit a two-run homer and Justin Smoak added a two-run single as the Blue Jays beat the team that eliminated them from last year’s AL Championship Series.
Former Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who signed a $60 million, three-year contract with Cleveland last winter, received a warm welcome in his return to Toronto. Fans cheered his name when the lineups were announced before the game, then roared in approval at a video tribute prior to the first pitch.
“It looked like he was touched,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I thought it was nice all the way around.”
Encarnacion got a standing ovation before his first at-bat, when he lined a first-pitch single off Stroman’s left foot. Encarnacion went 2 for 3 with a walk.
Pillar made the defensive play of the game — perhaps the season — in the sixth, diving on the warning track in center to catch a deep drive by Jose Ramirez and strand runners at second and third.
“Unbelievable,” Goins said. “One of the best catches I’ve ever seen him make.”
Francona called it “a game-changing play.”
“That was one of the better plays I’ve seen in a long time,” Francona said. “That’s hard, to dive going back, and that’s what he did.”
Perhaps no one was more grateful than Stroman (3-2), who shared a celebratory jump with Pillar as the Blue Jays left the field.
“Give that guy a Gold Glove,” Stroman said. “I think he’s the best defensive center fielder in the game.”
The remarkable grab was one of several plays that helped Stroman escape jams. Toronto turned inning-ending double plays in the second, fourth and fifth.
Stroman allowed six hits to win for the first time in three starts. He left his previous one after three innings because of tightness in his armpit.
“A good outing for him, considering the outing he was coming off,” manager John Gibbons said.
Goins hit a two-out homer off Trevor Bauer (2-4) into the second deck in the second, his third. Smoak hit a two-run single in the third.
Cleveland cut the deficit in half in the eighth. Francisco Lindor hit an RBI single, and a second run scored when Lindor got caught in a rundown. Lindor was ruled safe when second baseman Devon Travis was called for interference. Gibbons came out to argue and was ejected.
Joe Smith escaped further damage by getting Jason Kipnis on a grounder and striking out Encarnacion and Ramirez.
Roberto Osuna finished for his fifth save.
Bauer gave up four runs in six innings. He threw a career-high 125 pitches.
“I hope, in his mind, this is something to build off of because I thought he did a lot of good stuff,” Francona said.
Cleveland has scored three runs or fewer in seven straight games.