Cleveland has many nicknames. “The Forest City”, “The North Coast”, and “C-Town”. It’s most infamous moniker, “The Mistake by the Lake”, is a nod to the city’s myriad of struggles in the 1970s. But Cleveland baseball is no mistake this year. There is a lot to admire about the Tribe this season, and the Yankees were facing a tough team to beat going into this long weekend series. But there was nothing mistaken tonight about who was the tougher team.
Ivan Nova took the mound for the Yankees and started well, but struggled some with Tribe’s bats. Nova went 5 1/3 innings, gave up 4 runs and 5 hits. Nova gave up two homers in the third — a lead-off solo shot straight up the middle, and a 2-out solo homer. Nova started the bottom of the sixth only to give up a consecutive doubles that put runners in scoring position. A wild pitch easily allowed the lead runner to score and moved the other to 3rd.
After a ground out, the Yankees turned to the “Warriors Three” to shut down the Indians’ charging offense. Dellin Betances got the final two outs, with a bit of sacrifice play to start — a ground out that easily scored another run for Cleveland. But he stopped the advance with another ground out. Betances came out in the 7th to complete his 5-out stint. He was, of course, later backed up by fellow flame throwers Miller and Chapman, so the Yankees breezed through the Indians line-up to keep the game close and within reach.
The Indians put up 5 pitchers tonight, with their 4 relievers each taking an inning in the last 4. The starter certainly kept the Yankees’ bats rather quiet for the first half of the game. But after the Indians got on board in the 3rd, the Yankees were looking for their opportunity. They found it, and the Yankee bats woke up in the fifth with a 1-out home run by Didi Gregorius to kick things off. Then with Headley and Refsnyder on base with singles and 2 outs, Brett Gardner’s RBI single allowed Headley to score another run to tie the game. Despite loading up the bases with Beltran’s walk, the Yankees weren’t able to capitalize on the chance to break the tie at that point under the Indians’ starter.
At the top of the sixth, the Yankee offense came back and stayed alive. Castro and Gregorius hit back-to-back 1-out singles, and then Castro scored on Chase Headley’s RBI single to break the tie, giving the Yankees the lead. Though not without a bit of drama and replay challenge (which the Yankees won quite easily). Rob Refsnyder’s sacrifice fly brought in Gregorius, and after the Indians finally gave their starter the boot, a single by Jacoby Ellsbury brought in Headley. All this only to have Ellsbury picked-off 1st for the final out.
The top of the ninth, the Indians changed pitchers yet again. With 2 outs and 2 runners on the corners, the Yankees were looking for an insurance run or two, but a strikeout ended that hope. Thus, the Yankees were holding onto a 1-run lead at the bottom of the ninth with Chapman headed to the mound for his 17th save. It would be a grounder to be the interesting play with a challenge and everything, relayed from Teixeira to Castro to Chapman for the tag at 1st for the final out. (Though the Cleveland broadcast specifically listed that final play as Chapman “stealing” the win… so much for unbiased journalism.) Great teamwork, by the way, infield.
Final score: 5-4, Yankees.
Prospect news: Congratulations to power-hitter Aaron Judge (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre), who was selected to participate in the Triple-A Home Run Derby on July 11 at BB&T Park in Charlotte, NC. In 79 games this season, he has hit 16 homers and 53 RBIs.
And there is still time to cast your vote for the final roster of the MLB 2016 All-Star Game on July 12. Click here for the link to the ballot. Deadline for voting is tomorrow (Friday, July 8) at 4 pm ET.