CLEVELAND -- The Blue Jays had opportunities to score against Indians ace Corey Kluber early in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night. They put runners on base, made him throw a lot of pitches and were working their way toward giving Cleveland's bullpen plenty of work in the series opener.
But Kluber was able to escape every jam. And by finishing strong and pitching into the seventh inning -- earning the win in a 2-0 game -- he saved the Indians' bullpen and set them up well heading into Game 2 on Saturday (4 p.m. ET on TBS, and Sportsnet and RDS in Canada).
The Blue Jays put two runners on base in each of the first three innings, but they couldn't capitalize. They worked Kluber's pitch count up to 69 pitches through four innings, but Kluber only needed 31 pitches to record his final seven outs before turning the ball over to Andrew Miller.
"If we can get deep in a ballgame and get a lead to our bullpen, I feel like we have a really good shot," Kluber said. "Those guys have all been doing an unbelievable job down there. That's our game plan, to try to get them a lead and let them go out and do their thing."
Preserving the bullpen was key for the Indians. Top-of-the-rotation stalwarts Carlos Carrasco (fractured right hand) and Danny Salazar (right flexor strain) are not on the ALCS roster, and Trevor Bauer had his start pushed back to Game 3 because of a cut on his right pinkie. Game 2 starter Josh Tomlin is averaging less than six innings per start, while likely Game 4 starter Mike Clevinger has been a reliever for half the season.
But on Friday, the Indians only needed to use two relievers. Miller threw 31 pitches over 1 2/3 innings, and closer Cody Allen only needed 11 pitches in a clean ninth.
"The strength of their team is the bullpen, and we just weren't able to get any runs across early," Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar said. "I think we had good at-bats. That's what makes [Kluber] a Cy Young-type pitcher. When we had runners in scoring position, he turned it up a little bit and made some good pitches."
Going into Game 2, the Indians still have a fresh Bryan Shaw (3.24 ERA) and Dan Otero (1.53), as well as a lightly used Allen. And with a travel day on Sunday, Miller could be available again soon.
"At this time of the year, whether you throw 11, you throw 20, you throw 30, obviously you can go out there and throw a lot of pitches," Allen said. "You maybe won't be able to go three days in a row or something like that, but this time of the year, you find a way to get out there and get it done."
Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.