Embed from Getty ImagesTheir ace starter got knocked around like an overmatched palooka in a middleweight fight. Their designated hitter got injured early on and had to leave the game. They trailed 8-3 with two outs in the sixth inning. At that point, their win expectancy was less than 5%.
Nevertheless, they persisted. And they prevailed.
In the greatest comeback in Indians postseason history, the Tribe fought back to overcome a five-run deficit, and beat the New York Yankees, 9-8, in thirteen innings in Game 2 of the ALDS at Progressive Field on Friday night. The comeback was fueled by a sixth-inning grand slam from Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor which changed the score from 8-3 to 8-7 with the crack of the bat. Jay Bruce tied the score at 8-8 with a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth.
Facing Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, Austin Jackson led off the bottom of the 13th with a walk, and promptly stole second. After working the count to 3-2, Tribe catcher Yan Gomes then hit Betances’s tenth pitch into the ground, less than a foot on the right side of the foul line along third base, past the outstretched glove of Yankees fielder Ronald Torreyes. A jubilant Jackson scored easily as his teammates emptied the dugout to meet him at the plate.
The comeback kept starting pitcher Corey Kluber from wearing an L, which looked like his certain fate after he allowed six runs, all earned, before being removed from the game with two outs in the third inning. Kluber had control issues from the start, giving up seven hits, including two homers. Fortunately the bullpen was able to keep the game from getting out of hand, although Mike Clevinger gave up a two-run homer in the fifth inning to make the score 8-3. The other five relievers, though, combined to pitch 9 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball. Josh Tomlin got the win, pitching flawlessly in the 12th and 13th innings.
The victory did come at a price. In the first inning, Tribe designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion sprained his ankle while trying, unsuccessfully, to return to second base to avoid being doubled up on a Jay Bruce liner. He limped off the field with help, and was replaced by Michael Brantley. Under MLB rules, the Indians can replace him on the roster if he is unable to play, but they will lose him for the remainder of the ALDS, and for the entire ALCS, if they choose to make that move. He would be eligible to play in the World Series, should the team get that far. The club will evaluate EE’s condition tomorrow before making a decision on his fate.
The Indians lead the best of five series, 2 games to 0. The teams are idle tomorrow. Game 3 will take place at Yankee Stadium on Sunday evening. Carlos Carrasco will start for the Indians. Let’s hope there will be no Game 4.
Game notes: Yankees starter CC Sabathia, though not at his best, outpitched Kluber. CC lasted 5 1/3 innings, allowing four runs, two earned, before making way for Chad Green, who gave up the slam to Lindor. In retrospect, Yankees manager Joe Girardi might have done better to have kept CC in the game a little longer, but you can’t fault him for wanting to turn the game over to the solid Yankees bullpen with a five-run lead. It just didn’t work the way he wanted it to.
More questionable, though, was Girardi’s decision to not challenge a call which awarded Indians batter Lonnie Chisenhall first base on the grounds that he was hit by a pitch. Repeated replays made it look as though perhaps the ball hit Chisenhall’s bat instead, or maybe hit nothing at all before landing in the catcher’s glove. Two pitches later, Lindor hit a fly ball to right field, a ball which hit the foul pole for a grand slam. Would the HBP call have been overturned? Who knows? But I bet Girardi is wishing he’d made that challenge.
Friday marked the fifth wedding anniversary of Gomes and his wife Jenna Hammaker. What a way to celebrate!