As the All-Star break begins, the Yankees finished their first half on a surprisingly high note. New York didn't get a strong start from Masahiro Tanaka, but still managed to hold on for an 11-7 victory over Cleveland. The win gave the Yankees a series victory over the Indians, who were just a week removed from a scalding hot streak that saw them win a league-best 14 consecutive games.
The Yankees quickly pounced on opposing starter Carlos Carrasco for a crooked number in the second. Starlin Castro struck a leadoff double, and Rob Refsnyder reached on an error, scoring Castro. Refsnyder was only able to advance to third on Austin Romine's double, but Jacoby Ellsbury quickly rendered that misstep irrelevant with a three run home run to put New York up 4-0. Ellsbury's shot was an impressive line drive that refused to come down, settling in the right-center field seats:
Cleveland got one back in the bottom of the inning. Mike Napoli, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Rajai Davis strung singles together to make it 4-1. Tanaka then walked the number nine hitter in the lineup, Yan Gomes, to load the bases with two outs, but escaped further damage, retiring Carlos Santana on a groundout to end the inning.
Carrasco ran into more trouble in the fourth. Chase Headley doubled to lead off the inning, and eventually came around to score after Refsnyder again reached on an error and Romine and Brett Gardner grounded into fielder's choices. Carrasco was removed before he could finish the inning. He allowed five runs in 3.2 innings, striking out four and walking two. It was the most runs Carrasco has allowed all year, and the first time he allowed more than two runs since June 8th.
The Indians' bullpen proved unable to stem the bleeding and the Yankees soon broke the game open. Didi Gregorius doubled and Mark Teixeira singled to quickly chase reliever Austin Adams in the top of the fifth. Jeff Manship entered the game and walked Castro load the bases. Francisco Lindor then tossed a Headley grounder into the outfield for an error, scoring two. The Yankees continued to pile on when TJ House relieved Manship, as a combination of four singles and two sacrifice flies put New York up 11-1.
Tanaka wasn't sharp on the mound, however. Cleveland strung together two doubles and two singles in the bottom of the fifth to cut the lead to 11-3. Chisenhall reached on an error by Gregorius, scoring two more. Tyler Naquin delivered the final blow to Tanaka by crushing a two run, two out home run. Tanaka exited with an 11-7 lead, having struck out five and walking two in 4.2 innings.
Joe Girardi tasked Nathan Eovaldi with eating innings after Tanaka's early departure, a task which Eovaldi handled ably. Eovaldi finished the game out after coming on in the fifth, tossing 4.1 scoreless innings in his second appearance of the season out of the bullpen. A move to a bullpen role surely must have displeased Eovaldi, but he has managed the transition admirably, as he has not allowed a run in 6.2 innings as a reliever.
With the win, the Yankees closed the first half with a perfectly .500 record, 44-44. The series win was an improbable one, but it still leaves the Yankees 5.5 games out of the second wild card spot. It was certainly a strong way to enter the All-Star break, but New York must do much more after the break if they intend to thrust themselves back into contention. If they fail, this surprising series victory over an excellent opponent may prove to be one of the season's highlights.