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Wednesday’s MLB playoff results: Indians finish Blue Jays, head to World Series

Associated Press

TORONTO — For the Cleveland Indians, the script was the same every game — hope for the best from whoever they started, then count on Andrew Miller and the bullpen to close it out.

That plan seemed especially dicey in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series, with lightly used Ryan Merritt on the mound.

But out of nowhere, the rookie delivered.

Merritt coolly kept the Indians ahead until reinforcements arrived, and Cleveland earned its first trip to the World Series since 1997 by blanking the Toronto Blue Jays 3-0 Wednesday.

The 24-year-old lefty defied expectations, shutting down the powerful Blue Jays before exiting in the fifth inning. Thanks to a most unlikely pitching performance, a most unexpected team won the ALCS 4-1.

Cleveland, which has never hosted a World Series opener, will play Game 1 at Progressive Field on Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers.

Manager Terry Francona’s team will try to augment what’s already been a scintillating year in Cleveland after LeBron James and the Cavaliers earned the city’s first major pro sports championship since 1964.

The Indians’ title drought dates to 1948. In 1997, they let a one-run lead get away in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7 and lost to the Florida Marlins in the 11th.

“We always said if we could do it with this group it would be so special because this is as close to a family feel as you can get in a professional setting. So for that part of it, it is beyond feeling good,” Francona said.

The Dodgers led the Cubs 2-1 going into Game 4 of the NLCS on Wednesday night. Cleveland didn’t play either club this season.

Miller, acquired from the New York Yankees in a midseason trade, was selected the ALCS MVP as the Indians took their sixth pennant.

“I feel like I’ve said the word ‘special’ a million times in the last 20 or 30 minutes. But it’s the truth. It’s a blast to be a part of,” Miller said.

With all of 11 major league innings under his belt — and only one start, on Sept. 30 — Merritt took the mound and looked just like a seasoned vet. The lefty retired the first 10 batters and allowed a mere two hits before being pulled after 4 1/3 innings.

“I know they were counting on me,” Merritt said. “Before the game, they came and told me they had my back, everybody had my back, good or bad. So that takes some pressure off, and I just went out there and pitched and trusted my team.”

Cubs 10, Dodgers 2

LOS ANGELES — Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and the rest of the Chicago Cubs’ bats broke out in a big way.

Rizzo homered and ended a postseason slump with three RBIs, Russell’s two-run drive highlighted a four-run fourth that stopped Chicago’s 21-inning scoreless streak, and the Cubs routed the Los Angeles Dodgers to even the NL Championship Series at 2-all.

Kenta Maeda is set to start for the Dodgers in Game 5 on Thursday against Jon Lester. Before the game, manager Dave Roberts said he would not use Clayton Kershaw on short rest after the Los Angeles ace threw a bullpen session Wednesday.

Following consecutive shutout losses, the Cubs rapped out 13 hits on an 80-degree night with the warm Santa Ana winds fluttering the flags in center field.