For the second straight game, the Indians jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and came away empty in the win column as the Yankees put up five runs in the fifth and sixth innings and held off a late charge as Cleveland fell 5-4 on Thursday night in the series opener with New York from Progressive Field.
It was a tale of two games on the mound for Indians starter Trevor Bauer, who retired eight straight to start the game with four strikeouts before walking the ninth batter in the third. No harm was done as Jacoby Ellsbury flied out to end the inning.
The Indians touched up Yankees starter Ivan Nova for a pair of big blasts in the bottom of the third. Tyler Naquin led off the inning with a rocket to the staircase to the right of the bullpen to give Cleveland a lead. After Nova struck out Chris Gimenez and Carlos Santana swinging, Jason Kipnis followed Naquin’s lead with a shot that just cleared the wall to right-center to push the lead to 2-0.
Bauer had allowed just a walk and a single through the first four innings before the Yankees struck through in the fifth. With one down, Didi Gregorius homered to deep right field to cut the lead in half. A pair of singles from Chase Headley and Rob Refsnyder put two on before Ellsbury popped up to short for the second out. With a chance to get off the hook, Bauer gave up a single to center to Brett Gardner to score Headley to tie the game. Carlos Beltran walked to load the bases before Brian McCann popped out to second to waste a big chance for the Yankees.
The third trip through the order was no less difficult than the second for Bauer, who gave up three straight singles with one out to Starlin Castro, Gregorius, and Headley, the last of which drove in Castro with the go-ahead run, but only after the out call at the plate was overturned by review. Refsnyder lifted a sacrifice fly to left to score another before T.J. House replaced Bauer on the mound. He allowed a single to left by Ellsbury to score the Yankees’ fifth run of the night before House picked off Ellsbury from first.
Nova retired seven straight Indians batters before getting the 5-2 lead. Santana and Kipnis led off the sixth with a pair of doubles and Santana scored on a wild pitch. After a groundout by Francisco Lindor and the score 5-3, Yankees manager Joe Girardi went to the bullpen and brought on his All-Star middle man Dellin Betances, but he could not keep the Indians off of the scoreboard as Mike Napoli drove in a run with a slow grounder to short to make it a 5-4 game.
It would be as close as the Indians would get, although they missed out on two potential game-tying opportunities late in the game. In the seventh and with two outs against Betances, Naquin singled to right. Abraham Almonte took a bat and pinch-hit for Gimenez. Naquin stole second easily as Almonte swung and missed at strike two. He cut and missed on strike three, which went all the way to the backstop. Almonte was slow out of the box while Naquin flew around third base towards the plate. The throw from catcher McCann was just in time to nail Almonte at first, preventing Naquin’s effort from tying the game at five.
“If he sees it, he’s safe at first,” said Indians manager Terry Francona postgame. “Naquin did a great job of base running. If he sees it, he gets there easily and it’s first and third and we still got a chance, which would be great. In a perfect world and he saw it just a hair sooner, we get the call at first and Naquin scores.”
Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen each put on two runners in their innings of work, but kept the game tied at five. Girardi brought on his closer, Aroldis Chapman, who walked Napoli on a tough 3-2 pitch to start the ninth inning. Ramirez struck out swinging before Juan Uribe delivered a pinch-hit single to left to put two on. Rajai Davis tagged a liner to left, but it hung up for Gardner for the second out. Down to the final out, Naquin grounded to first. The ball was never fielded cleanly by Mark Teixeira, but bounced towards Castro at second. He fielded and threw to Chapman covering first, but Naquin was called safe. Girardi challenged the call and replay showed that the tall left-handed slinger for New York kept his foot on the bag before Naquin’s came down on the base.
The overturned call ended the game, with the Yankees taking a close 5-4 game.
“You know what, I think we kinda knew,” said Francona. “You’d like to be able to hit, but when you know it’s probably going to go against you, you kinda brace for it.”
The Indians (51-34) dropped their second straight for the second time in the last week. It is the first time Cleveland has lost consecutive home games since dropping three straight to end the month of May. They are still 25-10 since that three-game losing streak ended and fall to 39-10 this season when scoring first. The Yankees (42-43) pull within a game of the .500 mark, but are still looking up at three teams in the AL East.
YANKEES PITCHING GETS THE JOB DONE
Nova (6-5, 5.18 ERA) hung around long enough for his team to give him a momentary lead and handed the ball off to his three All-Star caliber bullpen mates. He worked five and one-third innings, allowing four runs on five hits while striking out six. He left in some trouble in the sixth with just 82 pitches thrown.
Betances earned his 21st hold and Miller his 14th before Chapman entered for his 17th save of his shortened season.
“You know going in that they’re some of the best in the league. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to win,” said Francona. “I thought we had some really good at bats. But it is certainly challenging. Any team, when you get down late, it’s hard, but those two guys at the end are pretty special. You’re looking at like, combined, eleven walks and 140 strikeouts. Like I said, I thought we had some pretty good at bats.
“Uribe really, after the first two pitches, kinda dialed it up a little bit. We had the lineout to left. We had some good at bats. Naquin, that’s his first at bat…I don’t think he’s seen too many guys like that at Triple-A. I thought they did a pretty good job.”
BAUER WITH A LITTLE GOOD AND A LITTLE BAD
Bauer (7-3, 3.30) had a Jekyll and Hyde kind of performance on Thursday night after making quick work of the Yankees through the first three innings. He gave up his first hit of the night in the fourth before things got away from him quickly in the fifth and sixth. After allowing just two base runners (single, walk) in the first four innings, he allowed eight in his final inning and two-thirds tossed.
“They were really sharp, good innings. They were aggressive with his fastball,” said Francona. “It looked like just too many fastballs caught too much of the plate. Probably elevated a little bit too. They came kinda in a hurry. He was really good early. I don’t think Trevor tires or things like that because his arm is in such good shape. I thought it was mostly fastballs that were catching too much.”
He worked five and two-thirds in total on the night, allowing five runs on eight hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
It was the first time Bauer has been dealt a loss since May 21.
ANOTHER STREAK ENDS
Jose Ramirez’s eleven-game winning streak came to an end with an 0-for-4 on the night with a strikeout.
After drawing a total of 77,709 fans over the three-game set with the Detroit Tigers to start the week, the Indians began the middle game of their seven-game homestand with another game with nearly two-thirds of the seats sold. A crowd of 23,848 was announced for Thursday’s game. Paired with the fans who showed up for the series against Detroit, the Indians have now drawn 101,557 in four July games and are expecting near sellout crowds for the games on Friday and Saturday.
KLUBER NAMED AN ALL-STAR
Despite the loss, the Indians did receive some good news on Thursday as starting pitcher Corey Kluber was named as a replacement for the American League All-Star team. He will replaced injured Toronto starter Marco Estrada, who was placed on the disabled list earlier in the day. It will give the Indians three representatives at the Midsummer Classic. It is the first selection for the Indians’ veteran righty.
The Tribe made a pile of roster moves prior to the game involving their revolving door bullpen.
Right-hander Zach McAllister was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right hip discomfort. Rookie pitcher Mike Clevinger was optioned back to Triple-A Columbus.
A pair of right-handed relievers were called up from the Clippers. Austin Adams will make his return to the Cleveland bullpen, while Joseph Colon is on the 25-man roster for the first time in his career.
Game two of the four-game set will match up new All-Star starting pitcher Kluber (8-8, 3.78) against rookie right-hander Chad Green (1-1, 4.09), who will make his fourth MLB appearance and third career start.
First pitch from a sold-out crowd from Progressive Field is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak