How about that? What looked like a pitcher’s duel on paper turned into an extra innings slugfest. New York and Cleveland traded leads five times throughout the game. That’s about as back-and-forth as you can get. It took 11 innings, but the Yankees topped the Indians by a score of 7 - 6.
Danny Salazar has been one of the American League’s best pitchers in the first half. He made the All-Star staff and has been in the (very) early Cy Young discussion. On Saturday afternoon, however, he looked mortal. The Yankees got on the board in the third inning starting with a Brett Gardner leadoff double. He advanced to third on a groundout by Jacoby Ellsbury before being driven home on a Carlos Beltran RBI single. Brian McCann struck out to bring up the white-hot Didi Gregorius. Salazar served up a 95.2 mph fastball that Gregorius launched into the right field seats for a two-run home run. That’s his 11th home run on the season and gave the Yankees a 3 - 1 lead.
Salazar settled in after the three-run third, not allowing a hit over the next two innings. Things unraveled in the sixth, however. After getting Gregorius and Starlin Castro to ground out, Salazar put the next three Yankees he faced on base. Chase Headley singled to center, Rob Refsnyder ran out an infield single, and Alex Rodriguez (pinch-hitting for Aaron Hicks) worked a walk to load the bases.
With Gardner due up, Indians manager Terry Francona opted to go the bullpen, bringing in right-hander Danny Otero. Gardner launched a bases-clearing triple down the left field line. The ball caromed off the wall and over the head of Jose Ramirez. Gardner thought about making it an inside-the-park grand slam, but was held up by third base coach Joe Espada.
CC Sabathia’s recent struggles continued as he allowed five runs against the Indians lineup. The Tribe plated their first run in the bottom of the first. Sabathia hit leadoff man Rajai Davis, who advanced to second on a Jason Kipnis sacrifice. The speedy Davis almost immediately stole third; he seemed to catch the Yankees defense napping. Carlos Santana drove him home with an RBI infield single.
Following the Yankees big third inning, Sabathia gave the lead right back to Cleveland. An RBI single by Mike Napoli made it 3 - 2, before Santana launched an RBI double to plate Francisco Lindor and tie the game. Jose Ramirez joined the party with an RBI single of his own to give the Tribe a 4 - 3 lead. The damage could have been worse, however. Juan Uribe grounded to Chase Headley who fired home to prevent Santana from scoring.
The scoring continued in the fifth as Lindor leadoff with a double. He moved to third on a Napoli groundout. Sabathia got Santana to strike out before breaking the bat of Ramirez. Gregorious double clutched the ball but couldn’t complete the out at first, extending the Indians lead to five. All told Sabathia finished the afternoon allowing five runs over 5.2 innings, raising his season ERA to 3.77. Hopefully the All-Star break allows the Big Guy to recharge.
With both starting pitchers departed, the game quickly became a battle of the bullpens. Dellin Betances finished off the sixth inning before allowing the tying run in the seventh, an RBI single off the bat of Ramirez. Andrew Miller tossed a scoreless eighth before working himself into trouble in the ninth. Lindor leadoff with a single before Napoli drew a walk. Santana bounced into a fielder’s choice where Lindor was called out at third for colliding with Headley. Miller then struck out Ramirez before Joe Girardi turned to Aroldis Chapman to finish the inning. Chapman struck out Uribe to send the game to extra innings.
Headley mustered a one-out double off of Indians closer Cody Allen in the tenth. Refsnyder flew out to center and Austin Romine struck out to end the threat. Chapman worked a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the tenth. This game had the feel of a bullpen war of attrition. Chasen Shreve loomed for the next inning, but the Yankees had other plans.
The Indians brought in Tommy Hunter in the 11th. After retiring Gardner and Ellsbury, Beltran snuck a ground ball through the infield. Ronald Torreyes came in as the pinch runner and scored on a booming double off the bat of McCann, Yankees lead 7 - 6. In a surprising turn of events, Chapman returned to the mound in the bottom of the 11th. He allowed a leadoff walk before completing the 2.1 inning save and finishing the Yankees a win.
Also of note, the Yankees brought the leather today. There were several Gold Glove quality plays in the field. Ellsbury robbed Abraham Almonte of a home run in the bottom of the sixth. He made the leaping catch over the Stanley sign in left-center. Later in the tenth he made a running catch in shallow center to prevent a would-be Almonte leadoff hit. In the seventh inning, Gregorius prevented the go-ahead run from scoring when Uribe hit a ground ball. Gregorius flipped to second for the force out, which put his athleticism on full display. That was not an easy play to make.
The Yankees finish off the first half tomorrow against the Indians. It will be Masahiro Tanaka against Carlos Carrasco. Start time is 1:10 PM and the game can be seen on YES.