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NBA: Indians near World Series

TORONTO (AP) – Cleveland overcame the premature exit of its starting pitcher and won 4-2 at Toronto on Monday to move within one win of a place in the World Series.

Indians starter Trevor Bauer departed in the first inning when the stitches in the little finger of his pitching hand burst open and blood started streaming from the cut.

Six Indians relievers then combined to guide Cleveland to a victory that gives the Indians a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

Cleveland is now on the brink of its first AL pennant since 1997 and a step closer to ending its World Series winning drought that dates back to 1948.

Unbeaten in six playoff games, and with nine straight wins dating back to the regular season, Cleveland can complete its second consecutive series sweep on Tuesday.

The Blue Jays scored twice but could never take the lead, and when Jason Kipnis led off the sixth with a home run, Cleveland went up 3-2 and stayed in front.

The hard-hitting bats in the Toronto lineup have been largely dormant through the series, scoring just three runs in as many games.

“We felt like we had an opportunity with some of their lower-leverage guys coming out of the bullpen, but they’ve got good arms,” Toronto outfielder Kevin Pillar said. “It makes it tough when you’re facing a different guy every inning, every at-bat.”

After Bauer left with two down in the first, the final 25 Toronto outs were distributed as follows among the Cleveland relievers: four each for Dan Otero and Jeff Manship, three for Zach McAllister, five each for Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen, and four for Andrew Miller.

“The bullpen was unbelievable,” Bauer said. “Co-MVP to everybody.”

Allen, who usually closes, came on in the seventh with a runner on base and nobody out. After recording two outs, he walked Jose Bautista to add to the threat, but Coco Crisp took a sliding catch of a Josh Donaldson liner to left field, ending the inning.

Miller, who struck out 10 in just 3-2/3 innings across the first two games of the series, fanned three more this time and earned the save. It ended when Darwin Barney ground out with a runner on base, thanks to an off-balance throw by Kipnis which just beat him to first.

Mike Napoli entered 2 for 18 this postseason and in an 0-for-25 slump against right-handed pitchers dating to the regular season, but drove in the opening run in the first inning.