It’s win or go home time for the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees as a poor defensive showing from the Tribe led to six unearned runs and the Yankees rode a dominant performance from Luis Severino in a 7-3 rout to force a Game 5 in Cleveland on Wednesday.
Home field has been all the advantage throughout the playoffs thus far, but especially in the contest between the Indians and Yankees, as both teams have won their hosted games through four games of the series. It was the collapse of the usually sound Indians defense on Monday that led to a half dozen unearned runs, forcing an early exit from starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, who made the start on just three days’ rest.
Despite a big pitch count and several full counts in the first inning, Bauer escaped the opening frame with a pair of strikeouts and a runner forced at second after a two-out walk by Didi Gregorius. The Indians would get their first base runner of the night in the second when Jay Bruce led off the inning against Severino, but he would be stranded at first on a line out by Carlos Santana and back-to-back strikeouts by Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall.
The game slipped away from the Indians in the home half of the second as defensive miscues appeared and allowed the inning to stay alive longer. Bauer retired Greg Bird on a grounder to second to open the inning, but Starlin Castro’s grounder to third baseman Giovanny Urshela was misplayed into an error. Bauer bounced back and struck out Chase Headley looking for the second out. Todd Frazier stepped in and saw Castro advance to second on a passed ball by Roberto Perez before he doubled to left, scoring Castro with the game’s first run, something made possible due to the passed ball. Aaron Hicks singled to drive home Frazier and Brett Gardner singled to put runners on the corners for Aaron Judge. After Gardner picked off second base uncontested, Judge doubled to deep left to drive in both runners to double the score, 4-0. Gregorius was intentionally walked and Bauer’s game was done; Joe Smith came on and got Gary Sanchez to foul out to first to end the bleeding.
Severino breezed through the third, retiring the side in order before the Yankees bats got back to work with a little help from the Indians’ poor defense again. Mike Clevinger replaced Smith on the mound and walked the leadoff man Bird. Castro doubled to put two in scoring position for Headley, who struck out swinging. Frazier walked to load the bases. Hicks grounded to Santana, who fired to the plate to get the force of Bird, preventing a run with a big second out. Gardner followed with a routine grounder to Urshela at third, but the Tribe’s third baseman made another mistake. He looked towards second, then threw to first, but the throw was too high, forcing Santana to leap to make the catch. He was unable to return to earth quick enough to land on the bag for an out, allowing Castro to score with the fifth unearned run of the game, giving the Yankees a 5-0 lead. Danny Salazar was summoned for his first appearance of the postseason with the bases still loaded and Judge at the plate, but Salazar struck him out on a called third strike.
The Indians put up two quick runs in the fourth to cut into the Yankees lead. After Severino retired the first two batters to give him eight straight set down, Bruce worked a nine-pitch walk to keep the inning alive. Santana got ahead in the count before blasting a deep drive to center that cleared the 408 foot mark by plenty for a two-run blast, cutting the deficit to 5-2.
Salazar remained on the mound for the fourth and had a shutdown inning, working around a pair of walks in the frame by striking out two. The Indians then got back to work, as Perez drove a 100 MPH fastball the opposite way to right with one out in the fifth for a solo shot, making it a 5-3 game.
Error would return again in the fifth as the Indians would give the Perez run right back. Frazier hit a dribbler back towards the mound. Salazar fielded but his throw had little on it and sailed past Santana at first for an error. Frazier moved to third on a grounder to Santana at first for the first out. Tyler Olson entered to face the left-handed hitting Gardner and he retired him on a ball to shallow center, but Jason Kipnis’ throw to the plate was not in time to get Frazier tagging on the sacrifice fly. The sixth unearned run of the game made it a 6-3 game.
Bryan Shaw struck out Judge to end the fifth, but gave up a homer to Sanchez with one out in the next inning as the Yankees extended their lead to 7-3. The Indians, meanwhile, could not do anything against Severino. They were retired again in order in the top of the sixth and they wasted a one-out single by Brantley, his first hit of the postseason, in the seventh.
Cody Allen pitched the bottom of the seventh, but was able to do what his predecessors on the mound had not done – avoid damage from an error. He struck out Frazier to start the inning before Hicks reached and advanced to second on a fielding error by Santana. Gardner singled to right and advanced to second on the throw to the plate, but the throw held Hicks from scoring. Allen came back to strike out Judge looking before getting Gregorius to pop to short.
Severino turned the game over to Dellin Betances in the eighth inning and he was all over the place. Yan Gomes, pinch-hitting for Urshela, took a pitch behind his head during his eight-pitch walk. Francisco Lindor drew a four-pitch walk and Yankees manager Joe Girardi was quickly back on the mound for right-hander Tommy Kahnle. Unlike Betances, Kahnle was firing strikes, cutting down Kipnis looking, Jose Ramirez on a fly to right, and Bruce swinging to end the eighth. He struck out the side in the ninth, getting Santana and Brantley looking before getting Chisenhall swinging for the final out.
Severino was spectacular in his first start since a disastrous showing in the American League Wild Card Game. He worked seven innings, allowing three runs on four hits with a walk and nine strikeouts. Bauer was ravaged by some command issues in a tough strike zone and a porous defense behind him. He worked an inning and two-thirds, allowing four runs (all unearned) on four hits with two walks and three strikeouts. Clevinger and Salazar were each tagged with unearned runs in relief as well.
The Indians managed just four hits on the night, the second game in a row that the team struggled at the plate. Bruce and Brantley each singled, while Santana and Perez left the yard with their first homers of the postseason.
The pivotal Game 5 was forced and will occur at Progressive Field on Wednesday night in an 8:08 PM ET start. Corey Kluber will be on the mound for the Indians in a rematch with left-hander CC Sabathia. Sabathia got the better of Kluber his first time out, as Kluber did not look his usual self on the mound. The Indians were able to get to Sabathia early before he settled into a game ultimately won by the Indians in 13 innings.
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