EditorsNote: adds “this year” at end of first paragraph
Indians ride power surge to cap sweep of Yankees
NEW YORK — The way Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona described it, his players have enjoyed seeing Ryan Merritt walk through the clubhouse door after each of his six call-ups from the minor leagues this year.
Merritt experienced similar excitement watching his teammates score four times before he threw a pitch Wednesday. If that weren’t enjoyable enough, Merritt found out he wasn’t returning to the minors this time.
Merritt pitched effectively into the sixth inning as the Indians bolted to a four-run lead and completed a doubleheader sweep of the New York Yankees with a 9-4 victory on Wednesday.
“This is the one time we don’t have to send him back, Francona said. “Good for him.”
Edwin Encarnacion, Yan Gomes and Francisco Lindor homered as the Indians won their seventh straight, improved to 16-4 in their past 20 games and completed their first series sweep of the Yankees since April 7-9, 1989, in New York, doing so while seven players are recovering from injuries.
Jose Ramirez had four hits and Trevor Bauer won his seventh straight decision in Cleveland’s 2-1 victory in the opener. The Indians, who outscored the Yankees 17-7 in the three-game series, rolled to their latest win thanks to Merritt’s effectiveness and the power display.
“Seeing the way all of the starters have been pitching, you just kind of feed off them,” Merritt said. “To be able to come in and make another start in this rotation, it’s an honor to be out there and make another run at the playoffs.”
Merritt (2-0) started instead of Josh Tomlin, whose activation from the disabled list likely will occur this weekend in Detroit. Merritt held the Yankees to one run and five hits in 5 1/3 innings while not throwing any pitch faster than 87.8 mph.
“He’s handled these spot starts well,” Francona said. “Be up for a day and go back. When he comes through the door, everybody’s glad to see him. You know he’s going to throw strikes, which is a really good thing to have in these spot-start type of games.”
Merritt lowered his ERA to 1.74 while throwing 48 of 78 pitches for strikes. He allowed one earned run or none for the third straight start.
“This is the second time he’s come up and pitched a really big game for us,” Cleveland center fielder Austin Jackson said. “He doesn’t look nervous. He looks poised out there. He was attacking everybody. He knows his strengths, and he sticks to them.”
Encarnacion helped make things comfortable for Merritt by producing in his first two at-bats after sitting out the opener. He started the four-run first inning off New York left-hander Jordan Montgomery (7-7) with an RBI single and hit his 31st homer in the fifth, marking the sixth straight season the first baseman surpassed 30 homers.
Carlos Santana and Jackson added RBI doubles while Yandy Diaz contributed a two-run single.
“That’s always nice,” Merritt said of the early lead.
Gomes and Lindor capped the Indians’ scoring with a two-run homer in the seventh and a solo shot in the eighth. Lindor’s homer was his 25th, tying the team record for a shortstop set by Asdrubal Cabrera in 2011.
The Indians left New York for an off day before starting their fifth doubleheader Friday afternoon in Detroit. The Yankees had little time to digest their fifth loss in seven meetings against Cleveland because they play host to the Boston Red Sox in the opener of a four-game set Thursday.
“It’s a tough day, you knew coming to the field it was going to be a tough day, but any time you lose two games in one day it’s about as frustrating as it gets,” Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner said. “Obviously, we weren’t able to get a whole lot going offensively. Give a little bit of credit to them. They threw the ball well ... but we’re just not swinging the bats well right now.”
Greg Bird drove in all of New York’s runs with a single and a ninth-inning three-run homer. Aaron Hicks tied a career high with four hits, but little else went right for the Yankees, who entered Wednesday four games behind Boston.
“Let’s just try to win a game tomorrow,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Aaron Judge returned to New York’s starting lineup after getting the previous two games off. After striking out as a pinch hitter to end the opener, the right fielder was 1-for-3 in the nightcap.
Montgomery allowed four runs and six hits in four innings.
NOTES: LHP Andrew Miller (right knee patella tendinitis) has resumed throwing, but Cleveland manager Terry Francona said Miller is not ready to toss off the mound. ... Cleveland LF Brandon Guyer exited the second game of the doubleheader after the top of the fourth due to a neck strain. The Indians said Guyer’s exit was for precautionary reasons. ... The Yankees recalled LHP Jordan Montgomery from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to serve as their 26th player for the doubleheader.