The Cleveland Indians got out to a big early lead and had to hold on for dear life late as they evened up their series with the New York Yankees with a 6-5 win on Friday night.
Shane Bieber got back into the win column with a strong effort against the Yankees. He survived a rough fifth inning to keep the Indians on top, and they needed a tight-rope act from Cody Allen in the final frame to come away with the victory.
The Indians took their second look at Domingo German on Friday after the right-hander blanked them with six hitless innings in his first Major League start back in May. The Tribe would end their scoring drought against him in the first, but did so without a hit. In a pair of six-pitch encounters, Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley walked. The pair moved up on a wild pitch and Lindor scored on a grounder to first by Jose Ramirez to give the Indians a 1-0 lead. With a runner on third and one out, they would fail to come through as German struck out both Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso to end the threat.
Bieber pitched a perfect first and worked around a two-out single by Miguel Andujar in the second before the Indians found the hit column against German for the first time this season. After a groundout by Jason Kipnis, Tyler Naquin singled to left-center and came in to score on a double to left by Yan Gomes, making it a 2-0 game. Gomes moved to third on a groundout by Greg Allen. Lindor drew his second straight walk to put two on for Brantley, who punched a two-out, two-run double that split the outfielders to give the Indians a 4-0 lead.
Bieber worked through quick and quiet third and fourth innings, facing the minimum while erasing a one-out walk by Hicks in the latter frame on a double play grounder from Giancarlo Stanton. But in the fifth, the Yankees put together a rally that cut into the four-run deficit significantly. Greg Bird started the inning with a double and was joined on the bases by an Andujar walk. Neil Walker doubled to left to score Bird, and Andujar scored on a wild pitch by Bieber to make it a 4-2 game. Kyle Higashioka struck out swinging with a runner on third. Tyler Wade reached on an infield single to put runners on the corners and a Brett Gardner sacrifice fly to center made it a 4-3 game. Bieber stopped the bleeding there, getting what would be his biggest out of the night, inducing an Aaron Judge fly to center to end the inning.
The Indians responded with a pair of runs in the fifth to get some of their lead back. Brantley singled and Ramirez chased him home with a triple into the right field corner to knock German out of the game after four-plus innings of work. Jonathan Holder came on and walked Encarnacion on five pitches before a single by Alonso made it a 6-3 game. That would be all the Indians could muster, as Holder got the next three batters in order to strand a pair in scoring position.
Bieber retired seven straight batters through the sixth and seventh innings before coming back out to the mound for the eighth. Wade doubled to start the inning and manager Terry Francona went to his bullpen for the left-hander Oliver Perez. Wade moved to third on a passed ball by Gomes before Gardner grounded the runner home to make it a 6-4 game. Neil Ramirez entered as the third pitcher of the inning and plunked Judge, but got out of the inning when, with the tying run at the plate, he struck out Hicks and Gomes threw out Judge trying to steal second.
The Indians squandered a two-out double by Lindor in the bottom of the eighth to bring a two-run lead to the ninth. It would quickly become a one-run advantage as Stanton led off the frame against Allen by launching a homer to right-center to make it a 6-5 game. Bird singled, but Allen got a double play ball from Andujar for the first two outs. Walker drew a walk to keep the threat alive, but pinch-hitter Didi Gregorius popped out to his usual counterpart Lindor at short to end the ball game.
The Indians (51-42) got back into the win column and did so for the first time this season against New York. The Yankees fell to 61-32 with the defeat.
Bieber worked into the eighth and kept the damage contained largely to the fifth inning. He allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits. He walked a pair and struck out six, leaving after 99 pitches tossed to improve to 5-1 on the year. German took the loss for the Yankees after four-plus innings of work. He allowed six runs on five hits, walking four and striking out six. Allen’s save in the ninth was his 19th of the season.
The top three hitters in the Tribe lineup, the All-Stars, did the heavy lifting on Friday. The trio went 5-for-10 at the plate with four runs batted in, four runs scored, and four walks.
Prior to the game, the Indians announced that Corey Kluber will forgo his opportunity to pitch in the All-Star Game after receiving a gel injection in his right knee. In an unrelated move, the team also activated left-hander Ryan Merritt from the 60-day disabled list and designated him for assignment.
Game three of the series between the Yankees and Indians is scheduled for a 7:15 PM ET first pitch on Saturday night in a nationally televised Fox broadcast. Mike Clevinger (7-4, 3.34 ERA) will get the starting nod for the Indians, while former Tribe left-hander CC Sabathia (6-4, 3.34) will counter for New York.
Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Images