The Indians are up three games to one on the Blue Jays in the ALCS, and that's an enviable position to be in. Teams up 3-1 in a best-of-seven MLB series are 69-12 in those series, meaning they've won 85% of the time. Teams that were up 3-1 and had home-field advantage in the series are 38-6, an 86% success rate. An Indians fan doesn't need a long memory to recall a series that didn't go that way though, because the last time the Indians were in a best-of-seven series (the 2007 ALCS) they lost the final three games and went home.
The Indians will send Ryan Merritt to the mound to start Game 5, and it will be only the second Major League start of his life. He got through five innings while allowing only one run in his first, and the Indians would be delighted with that sort of result from him today. The postseason Blue Jays have a somewhat more potent offense than the final-weekend-of-the-season Royals Merritt faced a few weeks ago though, so I wouldn't bet the farm on a repeat of his pitching line. Yes, the Indians won Game 3 despite their starter not surviving the first inning, but games like that don't happen often.
If the series goes to Game 6, it'll be back in Cleveland, with a fully rested Josh Tomlin on the mound. He was good in each of his first two postseason starts, and might very well be good again if it comes to that. The last time he faced Toronto during the regular season though, he was charged with six runs in 4.1 innings. He might very well have a performance like that one.
If the series goes to Game 7, the Indians will have their ace, Corey Kluber on the mound, but it'll be his second consecutive start on short rest. In the first of those games (Tuesday night's Game 4) he lasted only five innings, allowing two runs.
The Tribe bullpen has been fantastic so far in the postseason, with Andrew Miller doing things that've hardly ever been seen on this stage before, and it's reasonable to think they can continue to turn in strong performances, but it's also reasonable to think Miller and Cody Allen won't stay quite as sharp as they have been.
Point is, in order for the Indians to pick up the final win they need to advance to the World Series, they're probably going to have to score some runs. It'd be easy to have overlooked this, because the Indians won the first three games, but their offense has been weak in the ALCS. They've scored only nine total runs in those four games, scoring more than two only once, and topping out at four runs in Game 3.
It hasn't been bad sequencing or anything like that either, the Indians just aren't getting on base. They have only 19 hits in four games, with more than three times as many strikeouts (29) as walks (9). They're collectively batting .164/.224/.302 in the series thus far. Two runs a game might be more than we should expect from a team with a line like that. Jose Ramirez is just 1 for 13. Jason Kipnis is just 1 for 15. Carlos Santana is just 2 for 12. It goes on and on, with only Francisco Lindor having had what feels like a good series at the plate so far.
During the 2016 regular season, Major League teams were just 194-1256 when scoring two runs or fewer. The Indians were 6-34 in such games.The Blue Jays were 49-7 when allowing two runs or fewer. Whichever way you slice it, if the Indians keep scoring two runs, odds are they won't win another game this year.
Going into the season, pitching was expected to be the strength of this team. Injuries have taken their toll on the pitching staff, but in the postseason they've done better than would have been expected from even a full strength unit. It's time for the offense to put the team on its back and win the American League pennant.