Things have not gone the way that Yan Gomes would have wanted them to over the last couple of years. Signed to a big contract extension in 2014, he has struggled with his performance at the plate, dealt with several injuries, and watched as his playing time has dwindled into a time share with fellow backstop Roberto Perez. Late season injuries deprived him of a significant role for the Indians in their incredible run through the postseason in 2016, as he appeared solely in the World Series and was 0-for-4, grounding into a double play and striking out twice.
He made sure his first start of the 2017 playoffs was one that he and Indians fans everywhere will not soon forget. His 13th inning walk-off single down the left field line capped six unanswered runs by the Indians as they completed an improbable comeback win over the New York Yankees to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five American League Division Series Friday night.
Few would have predicted that Game 2 of the ALDS would turn into a slugfest, especially for the Yankees as they faced Cy Young hopeful Corey Kluber on the mound. But despite an incredible run through the final four months of the season, Kluber did not have the kind of results that he is known for and he would exit the ball game after retiring just eight batters and giving up six runs. Thankfully for the Tribe, Kluber’s offensive teammates came to the rescue and his fellow pitchers did an underrated job in extended relief in a historic come-from-behind victory.
Fans were still filing through the security gates at Progressive Field when the Yankees stepped to the plate in the first and jumped out to an early lead. After retiring Brett Gardner on a liner to left, Kluber faced off with fellow AL All-Star Aaron Judge, who was coming off of an 0-for-4 day with four strikeouts in the series opener. Kluber fell behind early and walked him on five pitches. He fell behind a third straight batter as Gary Sanchez worked the count to 3-1 before driving the fifth pitch deep to center for a two-run blast.
The Yankees were not done and continued to threaten after a strikeout by Didi Gregorius for the second out. Starlin Castro doubled to left-center and Greg Bird reached on a fielding error by Jose Ramirez to put runners on the corners. Kluber struck out Aaron Hicks to end the inning and the rally, but the Yankees had a 2-0 lead.
Former friend of the feather CC Sabathia was on the mound for New York, making his first postseason start since 2012. He would run into his own problems in the first couple of innings, but the trajectory of the rest of his night would veer in a different direction than that of Kluber.
Francisco Lindor started the home half of the first reaching on an error by third baseman Todd Frazier. Sabathia retired Jason Kipnis on a fly to center before walking Ramirez to put two on. Edwin Encarnacion was plunked by a pitch, loading the bases for Carlos Santana, and the switch-hitter delivered with a single to left, driving in both Lindor and Ramirez to tie the game at two.
Despite the excitement that would fill the stadium at the sight of the brand new ball game, the energized air was quickly sucked out of the park as Jay Bruce lined out to short. Encarnacion attempted to get back to the bag before Gregorius could and he jammed his foot into the side of second and rolled over the ankle in a visually unpleasant manner. Gregorius’ effort was initially ruled as a safe call on the field, but as Encarnacion crumpled to the infield dirt, Joe Girardi’s replay review showed that he came off of the base during his injury. Insult added to injury as the inning was over on a double play line out and Encarnacion needed to be helped off of the field with little pressure being applied to the ankle in the process.
Kluber had an easier time in the second, which was something not uttered much on Friday in regards to his outing. He struck out Jacoby Ellsbury before giving up a single to left to Frazier. Gardner flied to left for the second out and Frazier was caught stealing with Judge at the plate to keep the score tied at two.
Cleveland moved in front in the bottom of the frame. Austin Jackson led off with a single to center. Gomes grounded to third, but Frazier’s throw for the force pulled Castro off of second, allowing Jackson to come in safe at the bag. Giovanny Urshela sacrificed both runners up 90 feet. Sabathia intentionally walked Lindor, bringing a lefty-lefty matchup with Kipnis. The batter won the battle as Kipnis singled to left, moving all runners up a base while making it a 3-2 contest. The inning would fizzle out from there, as Ramirez popped out to Bird in foul territory for the second out and pinch-hitter Michael Brantley, entering at DH for the injured Encarnacion, struck out swinging.
While Kluber had a good second inning, the third inning turned the tides dangerously against the Tribe’s favor. Judge struck out looking to start the third, but Sanchez singled to right. Gregorius grounded out to first on a ball initially mishandled by Santana. With the tying run in scoring position but two outs, Castro delivered with another hit as his single to center scoring Sanchez to tie the game at three. Bird added a single of his own to put two on for Hicks, who drove a pitch that missed its mark deep to right for a devastating three-run homer to make it a 6-3 Yankees lead.
Sabathia settled in after the Kipnis single, putting down the side in order in the third and fourth innings to give him eight straight batters retired. His teammates, meanwhile, poured on some more offensive against the Tribe’s third pitcher of the night, Mike Clevinger, in the fifth. The right-hander, who walked Judge and struck out Sanchez to end the fourth, started the fifth the same way, walking Gregorius before striking out Castro. Bird worked the count full before pulling the payoff pitch down the line in right for a two-run home run, extending the New York lead to 8-3.
Bryan Shaw entered and retired the final two batters of the inning, beginning a span of eight and two-thirds innings of scoreless relief by Tribe pitching.
Sabathia made it eleven straight retired with a 1-2-3 fifth and was back in the familiar center of the diamond at Progressive Field for the sixth. After walking Santana to start the inning, he got Bruce to line to short. Despite a pitch count well in his favor and the bottom of the lineup coming to the plate, Girardi reached into the well and called upon touted right-hander Chad Green. He recorded the second out of the inning on a fly to right by Jackson before Gomes doubled to the wall in left to put two in scoring position. Lonnie Chisenhall grabbed a bat to pinch-hit for the nine hitter Urshela. After cutting and missing at the first two pitches, Chisenhall fouled off four straight. The seventh pitch of the at bat was up and in on his hands. Home plate umpire Dan Iassogna ruled that it hit Chisenhall, although replays made that tough to confirm. Girardi stalled too long to challenge, opting, as he would put after the game, to not upset Green’s rhythm on the mound. Replays appeared to show the ball change direction slightly, possibly from contact with the knob of Chisenhall’s bat. Had Girardi been able to challenge the play in time, Chisenhall would have been out on strikes as Sanchez caught what would have been ruled a foul tip. Instead, Chisenhall stood at first with the bases loaded.
Two pitches later, Lindor swung and sent a high fly ball down the right field line that glanced off of the foul pole for a game-changing grand slam. Once down 8-3, the Indians had cut their deficit to one.
David Robertson got the final out of the sixth and set the side down in order in the bottom of the seventh. Shaw did the same for the Indians in the top of the frame and Andrew Miller followed suit with a quiet top of the eighth. The bottom half, however, would be uproarious for the Tribe.
Robertson, who worked deep into the game in the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday, returned to the mound in his third different inning of work to face his fifth batter of the night, Bruce, in the one-run game. Robertson missed on three of the first four pitches to fall behind 3-1. His next pitch was where Bruce wanted it. A blast to the bleachers in left knotted the game at eight and sent the sold out crowd into a frenzy.
The Yankees had a chance to take the lead in the top of the ninth as Frazier started the inning with an infield single off of Miller. Gardner sacrificed him to second, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position with one out. With the dangerous part of the order approaching, Francona went to Joe Smith and he got Judge to ground to third for the second out before striking out Sanchez looking, leaving a key run standing 90 feet from glory.
Aroldis Chapman was summoned for the ninth, striking out a pair while working around a one-out single by Kipnis up the middle. In his second inning of work, the Indians threatened as Jackson reached on a two-out single between the mound and third base. Chapman lost his balance and skipped his throw into the camera well, putting Jackson on second. Gomes was intentionally walked, but Erik Gonzalez lofted the very next pitch to right to end the rally.
Cody Allen pitched the 10th and 11th for the Tribe. He had a scare in his first inning of work, walking Bird with two down before a single by Hicks to right put runners on the corners. Chase Headley grounded to second to leave another runner at third. His second inning was also full of some excitement as Frazier reached on a bad throw by Gonzalez that went out of play. Girardi pinch-ran Ronald Torreyes for Frazier, but his stay on the base paths lasted just one pitch. Gardner faked a bunt attempt and Gomes immediately fired the ball towards second base from his knees. Lindor dropped the tag on Torreyes’ back and the second base umpire initially ruled the call as safe, but Francona quickly challenged and the call was overturned for a costly first out. Allen would work out of the inning, giving up just a walk with two outs to Judge.
Josh Tomlin came on for the Tribe in the 12th, working a solid inning. He returned for the 13th and did the same, striking out a pair in a big and underrated performance.
Dellin Betances pitched perfect innings in the 11th and 12th, but Girardi sent him back to the mound for the bottom of the 13th while already pushing the limits of his career longest outing. He walked Jackson on five pitches to start the inning. The veteran outfielder picked off second base with Gomes at the plate, beating the throw from Sanchez by plenty. Gomes faked a bunt for a strike and fouled off four straight pitches before working the count full. After another foul ball, the tenth pitch of the at bat was yanked down the left field line past a diving Torreyes and into the corner for the game-winning RBI-single, scoring Jackson from second as the dugout emptied onto the playing surface.
Kluber lasted just two and two-thirds innings, allowing six runs on seven hits with a walk and four strikeouts. Two long balls hurt him, as did command issues and several long innings. Behind him, seven pitchers combined for 10 1/3 innings of two-run relief to keep the game manageable. Tomlin, who was to start Game 4 if needed, worked the final two innings and earned his first win while striking out three.
The move by Girardi to pull Sabathia when he did is one that will be questioned for some time by Yankees fans. He was locked in on the mound at the time of the move and was at just 77 pitches on the night. He worked five and one-third innings, giving up four runs (two earned) on three hits with three walks and five strikeouts. The Yankees bullpen gave up five runs on six hits in six and two-thirds.
Both clubs will take Saturday off as the series relocates to New York for Game 3. When action resumes Sunday night, right-handers Masahiro Tanaka and Carlos Carrasco will take center stage. Tanaka will be pitching with hopes of keeping the Yankees’ season alive, while Carrasco is tasked with crushing those dreams with a broom built for sweeping.
First pitch from Yankee Stadium on Sunday night is scheduled for a 7:38 PM ET start.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images