Game 111: NYY vs. CLE — Sometimes, it takes 16 innings to lose

It says a lot for the Indians, a last place team in their division, to fend off a division leader for five hours and four minutes and earn the win. It may be the first time all year that Cleveland showed what it is really capable of if they just put a little effort into their games from time to time. It is unfortunate that it was against the Yankees, who are just a half-game ahead of the Blue Jays now.

Luis Severino got his second start tonight and actually did a better job than last time, but still showed off why the Yankees seem to have quite a bit of hopes in him. He’s a pretty good starter, and despite getting a little roughed up at the beginning and allowing his pitch count to creep up in the first half of his outing, he settled into a nice pattern and kept the Indians from running away with the game. He threw 97 pitches over his 6 innings, gave up 7 hits, 1 walk, and 2 runs, striking out 2 batters. (The Yankees defense behind him was really great tonight, but more on that below.)

In the 1st, a 1-out single scored on an RBI single to start the scoring. Then in the 2nd, with 2 runners on with singles, a beautiful double play (that great defense) moved the lead runner to 3rd where he would then score on an RBI single. And that would be it for the Indians’ scoring for the rest of the regularly allotted game time. Severino settled into that pitching pattern that made him noticeable in the minors, and the Indians just weren’t making much of their offense after that.

In the meantime, while the Yankees were certainly stymied a bit by the Indians starter, including striking out a total of 8 times in 8 innings, the Yankees did find a few well-placed pitches to make enough of a difference. They tied up the game with two lead-off solo home runs to right field by Stephen Drew in the 6th and Carlos Beltran in the 8th. This removed the possible loss from Severino and started the spiral that would become the rest of the game.

Chasen Shreve was near-flawless in the 7th, keeping them off the bases and swinging at his nasty pitches. Dellin Betances gave much the same in the 8th. And Justin Wilson’s 9th was just becoming a beautiful pattern, with an amazing catch by Teixeira, and sent it into extra innings. Then it was the Yankees’ turn to shine again.

It would be the 10th inning that would make the ultimate difference in the game and essentially flip a switch somewhere in both teams’ dugouts that was both thrilling and disheartening. With 1 out, McCann drew a walk and moved to 2nd on Beltran’s single, before Young would come in to pinch-run. With Gregorius’ single, the bases were loaded. Drew hit into a force out at home and kept the bases loaded. Chase Headley came on to pinch-hit for Ryan (Headley was sitting this game out originally) and promptly singled to score Beltran and Gregorius. That forced a pitching change that ended the inning with a strikeout, but the damage was done. The Yankees just needed to hang onto their 4-2 lead to win in 3 outs.

Who do you send on for the save? The great Andrew Miller, anointed 2015 closer. Except it wasn’t so smooth this time around — a lead-off single, a double, and a sacrifice fly to put the Indians within 1 run. Another single scored the tying run. Blown save. Two strikeouts, almost in revenge, the inning was over, and for the first time all season, Miller had a new statistic to his outstanding season — a blown save. (Though to be fair, even the great Mariano Rivera blew a save from time to time; anyone else automatically recall the 2004 postseason and shudder?)

So for the next few innings, it became a rotating door from both bullpens. Adam Warren’s 11th was just pristine and reminded everyone why Warren is still one of the best assets the Yankees have on their pitching staff. Bryan Mitchell gave the longest effort, going 3 innings with 60 pitches and striking out 5 Cleveland batters, including escaping a bases-loaded jam in the 14th. For the 11th through the 16th innings, the Indians gave their all with what turned out to be a pretty good bullpen, the most outstanding was Mitchell’s counterpart, a 3-inning outing (the 13-15th innings) for their reliever was virtually flawless (just 22 pitches). And their 16th inning guy threw just 9 pitches to shut down the Yankees in order.

Branden Pinder, the last available Yankee to pitch from the bullpen, threw a great 15th inning, but struggled in the 16th. It was the downward spiral no one wanted. With 1 out, two singles put runners on base, and yet another single scored that winning run in a walk-off. Game over.

Final score: 5-4 Indians.

All is not lost… there’s still quite a bit of baseball left to play this season. It’s just rather discouraging to watch the team that you know is better than this not play quite at that level. Is this what it’s like to be a Cleveland fan in their better years, Uncle Rick? (Had to… family rivalry and all… sorry, not sorry…)

Go Yankees!

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