Indians erase five-run deficit, beat Yankees in 13 innings for 2-0 lead in ALDS

  • Cleveland’s Yan Gomes (second from left) is hugged by pitcher Josh Tomlin and mobbed by teammates after his game-winning RBI single in the 13th inning to give the Indians a 9-8 victory over the Yankees in Game 2 of the ALDS. AP

Washington Post
Saturday, October 07, 2017

CLEVELAND – The ball hissed off Francisco Lindor’s bat and ascended into the October night, a prayer answered for 37,681 souls at Progressive Field, a thunderbolt through the gloom. The Cleveland Indians had become a vulnerable juggernaut, their ace cut down, their cleanup hitter impaired and their lead in the American League Division Series jeopardized. And then came Lindor’s liquid lash, and a ball clanging off the foul pole, and a stadium becoming a cauldron, and a game lurching into loopiness, and another frenzied reminder: These Indians are inevitable.

The notion of control evaporated as Friday afternoon changed to night. A manager fumbled, a five-run lead disappeared, dinner reservations were canceled and the scoreboard ran out of space. The first five hours and 100 plate appearances decided nothing. It became its own animal and chewed through whatever leash it may have been on.

New York’s autopsy of Game 2 will include a miasma of managerial misadventures, missed chances and bullpen arsonists. Given an opening, the relentless Indians struck. Lindor’s grand slam in the sixth inning served as the lodestone of the Indians’ 13-inning, roar-from-behind, 9-8 triumph. Jay Bruce’s solo home run in the eighth tied it. And Yan Gomes provided the culmination with a single down the left field line off Dellin Betances, scoring Austin Jackson 5 hours, 8 minutes after first pitch.

The Indians overcame so much to earn the 2-0 lead they will carry with them to New York, where the series resumes Sunday night. Corey Kluber, the presumptive AL Cy Young winner, lasted 2⅔ rotten innings and exited with the Indians down three runs. They lost designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, for the game and perhaps much longer, after he suffered a nasty ankle sprain. The Indians trailed by five runs after five innings.

The Yankees provided assistance. Manager Joe Girardi allowed Chad Green to face Lindor, the Indians’ best player, despite signs he was flagging. He chose not to challenge a phantom hit-by-pitch that loaded the bases. And he let right-hander David Robertson, in the midst of his second multi-inning outing in three days, a pitcher whom Girardi was unsure would be available, face the left-handed Bruce in the eighth inning despite a gaggle of fresh relievers in the bullpen, Betances primary among them.

The Yankees erred once more in the top of the 11th, when pinch-runner Ronald Torreyes wandered too far off second base with no outs and catcher Yan Gomes picked him off with a bazooka-grade throw. The missteps allowed the Indians to creep back into the game, and the relief quartet of Andrew Miller, Joe Smith, Cody Allen and scheduled Game 4 starter Josh Tomlin held the score until the denouement.

Betances mowed through the 11th and 12th innings, but he could not survive the 13th. Jackson drew a leadoff walk, which set in motion a certain chain of events. Since the start of 2016, runners have swiped 29 bases in 32 attempts against Betances. Jackson took second with ease. Gomes ended it on the 10th pitch he saw, bouncing a slider down the line and into the left field corner.

Jackson held his right index finger aloft as he circled third base. The Indians swarmed Gomes and celebrated their 35th victory in the past 39 games. They are winning at a clip unheard of in the sport, with an uncommonly great team. The Indians outscored opponents in the regular season by 254 runs, the best in baseball by 56 runs and the widest margin since the 116-win 2001 Seattle Mariners. They employed, by the estimation of statistical bellwether FanGraphs, “maybe the best pitching of all-time.” Jose Ramirez is their strongest MVP candidate, but one could reasonably argue, over pints of Dortmunder Gold, he is their fourth or fifth best position player. The engraver can safely commence work on their manager’s Hall of Fame plaque.

And they have another trait, hard-won by their march to Game 7 of last year’s World Series: They refuse to die.

The Game 2 pitching matchup played out as everyone expected, except the exact opposite. At the start of the third inning, Kluber carried a 3-2 lead to the mound after 37-year-old Yankees starter CC Sabathia barely escaped disaster. Kluber would leave before the inning ended, down 6-3 after Aaron Hicks smashed a three-run homer into the right field seats. Sabathia would stabilize himself and retire 11 in a row.

When Sabathia retired Bruce on a lineout to shortstop for the first out of the sixth, he had set down 12 of 13 batters and thrown 73 pitches. Greg Bird had a launched a two-run homer in the fifth to give New York an 8-3 cushion. Girardi, though, did not want to wait until after Sabathia wore down to remove him. He had planned for Sabathia to face Bruce, a lefty, and then shake his hand for a job well done.

Girardi called on Green, one of the bullpen heroes of the Yankees’ wild card victory three nights prior. Green induced a ground out from Jackson, and an uneventful inning beckoned. Yan Gomes kept the inning alive with a double into the left field corner, bringing Lonnie Chisenhall to the plate.

Chisenhall deserves credit for forcing the pivotal, and contentious, pitch - he fell behind, 0-2, and stayed alive by fouling off four consecutive 97-mph fastball. Green fired a fifth, on Chisenhall’s hands. The ball veered inside and, per the ruling of home plate umpire Dan Iassonga, nicked Chisenhall’s wrist. Replays showed the ball may have actually grazed the knob of his bat, or nothing at all. But Girardi did not challenge, and Lindor, the beating heart of the Indians, walked to the plate.

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild and catcher Gary Sanchez huddled with Green. In the bullpen, Aroldis Chapman continued to warm, preparing for an unconventionally early appearance. Girardi stuck with Green. Lindor plastered his second pitch down the right field line. When the ball crashed off the foul pole, Lindor skipped around the bases and Progressive Field erupted. Suddenly, the Indians trailed by only a run, 8-7.