Defense played a big role in the New York Yankees dropping each of the first two games of their series in Cleveland against the Indians. That same defense would come through in clutch time for the Yankees on Saturday night as several big plays in the ninth inning helped preserve a 2-1 victory over the Indians.
In a tight game that was well pitched on both sides of the ledger, the Yankees (58-51) would edge out a win to end their four-game losing streak. It also brought an end to a nine-game home winning streak by the Indians (59-49), who were dealt their first home loss of the second half.
Danny Salazar started the game for the Tribe in his third start off of the disabled list. He was opposed on the other side by rookie left-hander Jordan Montgomery, having a solid debut campaign for the Yankees.
New York would strike first in the first as Salazar struggled with command in the early going. Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a one-out single by Aaron Judge. Didi Gregorius drilled a double to deep center, played well by Austin Jackson to hold Judge, but Gardner scored to give the Yankees a lead. Salazar would work out of the jam with a pair in scoring position, striking out Gary Sanchez looking before Jacoby Ellsbury lined to center.
The Indians would get the tying run to third in the first, but could not score against the southpaw Montgomery. Francisco Lindor doubled to lead off the inning and advanced to third on a one-out groundout by Michael Brantley. Jose Ramirez left him there with a grounder to second.
Cleveland would skip run manufacturing in the bottom of the second as Carlos Santana did the heavy lifting himself. He cleared the wall in left on a 3-1 pitch with one out for a solo shot to tie the game at one.
The third and fourth innings were all about Salazar. After he walked Gardner for a second time to lead off an inning in the third, Salazar struck out the next three to leave him at first. Salazar added two more Ks in the fourth, ending the inning on back-to-back strikeouts of Ellsbury and Todd Frazier. After retiring eight in a row, Salazar gave up a two-out single in the fifth to Gardner as he reached base safely for a third straight plate appearance, but Chase Headley flied to center to strand the runner again.
Montgomery went toe-to-toe with Salazar. After Santana’s homer in the second, he retired eleven of the next 12 batters, giving up only a leadoff single in the third to Giovanny Urshela. The final nine that he faced went down in order with five strikeouts. David Robertson replaced him in the bottom of the sixth and the right-hander threw two scoreless innings, working around a pair of singles by Lindor and Brantley in his first inning of work by retiring Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion to end that threat.
Salazar struck out the side in the seventh, the second time on the night that he retired all three outs in a frame on strikeouts. He turned the ball over to Zach McAllister in the eighth, but the results were not what manager Terry Francona would have hoped for. After a seven-pitch at bat against Gardner resulted in a strikeout, McAllister’s 0-1 offering to Headley was driven just over the wall in right-center for a solo homer and a Yankees lead.
“I didn’t locate the pitch that I wanted to,” said McAllister after the game, “and it’s frustrating.”
McAllister and Tyler Olson would get out of the inning and Nick Goody pitched a scoreless ninth, bringing on Aroldis Chapman from the bullpen for the final three outs.
In his first appearance against the Indians and at Progressive Field since blowing the save in the bottom of the eighth inning in Game 7 of the World Series, Chapman had to work for his 14th save of the season. Brantley led off the inning with a single to right. Ramirez sent a deep fly ball to the wall in left, but the short Gardner made a leaping catch to rob Ramirez of extra bases. Encarnacion worked his count full before lifting a bloop into shallow right, where a hustling Ronald Torreyes made a diving catch for the second out. Santana would see nine pitches in his at bat, working the count full and just missing a walk-off home run on a deep foul ball, but Chapman would strike him out looking at a 3-2 pitch to end the ball game.
MONTGOMERY MAKES UP FOR SHORTEST START OF SEASON
Montgomery showed the Indians why he has been a member of the Yankees rotation all season long. The 24-year-old left-hander did not factor in the decision, but he was sharp on the mound, allowing just the Santana solo homer and three hits in total while striking out seven in five innings of work. He made just 65 pitches in his five frames, with 47 coming for strikes. The better results came on the heels of his shortest big league start his last time out.
Robertson earned his fifth win of the season with two scoreless innings of two-hit baseball. Dellin Betances worked a scoreless eighth, striking out a pair to earn his 15th hold of the year.
DON’T WALK THIS WAY
The Indians have been a patient team over the last few years, with guys in the lineup like Santana and Encarnacion who will see their fair share of walks. That was not the case on Saturday, as the team took 33 trips to the plate and did not draw a single walk.
SALAZAR SUPER AGAIN
Salazar was once again as good as advertised as he pitched deep into another ball game looking to be a completely different pitcher than the one suiting up in the 31 throughout the first half of this season. He fired seven innings of one-run ball on the night, giving up four hits and three walks while striking out a career-high 12 batters. He threw a season-high 112 pitches (71 strikes) and had devastating swing-and-miss stuff throughout the night.
In 20 innings since returning from the disabled list for his start on July 22, Salazar has allowed just three earned runs on eight hits while striking out 28 batters.
“The guy comes out there, gives us seven innings, one run, 12 strikeouts,” said Gomes. “Everyone was kind of iffy on how he was going to come back. He’s healthy. We all know when he’s healthy, he’s a dangerous pitcher.”
Prior to the game on Saturday in a large ceremony outside of Gate C at Progressive Field, the Indians hosted a large contingent of fans, players, and relatives of the late Lou Boudreau, whose efforts on the field and in the Tribe dugout were recognized by the club with the addition of its fifth statue at the ball park. Boudreau’s son, Lou Jr., threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The senior Boudreau’s number five was retired by the Indians in 1970, the same season that he entered the Hall of Fame.
The first 12,500 fans in attendance also received replica statues of Boudreau.
KIP IS BACK
The Indians announced that second baseman Jason Kipnis will rejoin the club on Sunday and will be in the starting lineup after completing his rehab assignment. A roster move will need to take place to add Kipnis back to the 25-man roster from the 10-day disabled list.
ONE MORE TIME
The Indians will try again to claim the series from the Yankees and will turn to one of the best arms on their staff. Carlos Carrasco (10-4, 3.89 ERA) will take the mound in time for the 1:10 PM ET first pitch on Sunday. He is looking to bounce back from a disappointing start in Boston, when he was given a big lead against the Red Sox’s Chris Sale, but lasted just one and two-thirds innings while giving up five runs on six hits with three walks himself. Right-hander Luis Severino (8-4, 2.98) will start for the Yankees. The 23-year-old right-hander has won three straight starts, working 19 innings while striking out 23 batters and allowing just three runs (one earned)
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