Gregorius homers twice as Yanks cap comeback, KO Indians
CLEVELAND — The last time New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi was in Cleveland, “I was about as low as I could be as a baseball player or baseball coach or whatever I was.”
Girardi and his team returned to Cleveland on Wednesday night, and they completed a stunning comeback to upset the winningest team in the American League.
Didi Gregorius hit two home runs and drove in three runs, and the Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians 5-2 in the deciding Game 5 of the American League Division Series at Progressive Field.
After losing the first two games of the series, the Yankees won three in a row, outscoring Cleveland 13-5. The Indians hadn’t lost three consecutive games since July 30-Aug. 1.
“It’s hard to believe, because we just beat a really, really good team,” Girardi said.
“It’s disappointing,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “We came down the stretch playing very good baseball. Nobody wanted the season to be over. It doesn’t wind down. It comes to a crashing halt.”
New York advances to oppose the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series. Game 1 will be played Friday in Houston.
The Indians, who won 102 games during the regular season, including an American League-record 22-game winning streak, were picked by many to make a second straight World Series appearance. However, New York’s pitching staff had other ideas. In the last three games of the series, Yankees pitchers completely shut down Cleveland’s offense.
Cleveland hit .152 as a team in Games 3, 4 and 5, and New York held the lead in all 27 innings. The Indians, who made the fewest errors in the American League this year, committed seven errors in the last two games.
“We did things in this series that were out of character for our team,” said Francona.
Cleveland won the first two games of the series, including a wild, 13-inning, 9-8 victory in Game 2. In that game, Girardi failed to challenge an umpire’s call that would have prevented the Indians’ Francisco Lindor from hitting a momentum-swinging grand slam.
“I screwed up, plain and simple. So, for me, what those guys did for me, I’ll never forget it,” Girardi said of his players rallying to win the series.
Yankees starter CC Sabathia pitched four strong innings Wednesday before faltering in the fifth. He struck out nine and was charged with two runs in 4 1/3 innings. David Robertson (1-0) entered and pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings to get the win.
Aroldis Chapman shut out Cleveland over the last two innings to pick up his second save of the series.
Gregorius went 3-for-4, and Brett Gardner added three hits and an RBI for New York.
Cleveland starter Corey Kluber (0-1) lasted only 3 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on three hits and two walks.
Leading 3-2, the Yankees scored two insurance runs in the ninth inning as a result of an RBI single by Gardner off Cody Allen, capping a 12-pitch at-bat. The second run on the play scored on a throwing error by right fielder Jay Bruce.
The Yankees wasted little time in taking the lead against Kluber. Gregorius, the No. 3 hitter, hit a 1-2 pitch into the seats in right field for his first home run.
“It was a fastball, and I put a really good swing on it,” Gregorius said.
The Yankees didn’t score again until Gregorius batted again. This time, in the third inning, he hit an 0-1 pitch into the right field seats for a two-run homer to make it 3-0.
“He threw me a curveball or slider or cutter inside again, I put a good swing on it, and it went out,” Gregorius said.
Sabathia, meanwhile, was mesmerizing Cleveland hitters. The big lefty retired the first nine batters he faced, striking out six of them.
The Indians finally solved Sabathia in the fifth inning with four straight one-out singles, by Austin Jackson, Jay Bruce, Roberto Perez and Giovanny Urshela.
The hits by Perez and Urshela produced runs, cutting the Yankees’ lead to 3-2, but that was as close as Cleveland got.
NOTES: Prior to hitting home runs in his first two at-bats against RHP Corey Kluber on Wednesday night, Yankees SS Didi Gregorius was 2-for-15 in his career vs. the former AL Cy Young Award winner. ... New York DH Jacoby Ellsbury, who has reached first base on catcher’s interference a major-league-record 31 times in his career, reached on catcher’s interference in the second inning. ... Kluber, who led the major leagues with a 2.25 ERA this year, had a 12.79 ERA in two starts in the Division Series. ... Indians DH Edwin Encarnacion was back in the lineup for Game 5 after missing the previous two games with a sprained right ankle. He went 0-for-4. ... Yankees RF Aaron Judge went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. He finished 1-for-20 with 16 strikeouts in the series.