Going into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Yankees were up 8-3 and looked comfortable. CC Sabathia had some hiccups early, but had settled down. Plus, with a mostly rested bullpen, things looked good.
Then the sixth inning happened.
An inexcusable non-challenge on a hit by pitch call led to a grand slam that got the Indians right back in the game. After that, it only seemed like a matter of time until Cleveland took the lead. The bullpen held off for a long while, but the offense was done, and eventually that caught up to them. The Indians won 9-8 in 13 innings to go up 2-0 in the series, and the Yankees just lost one of the most frustrating games they’ve played in a long time.
To start the game, the Yankees immediately produced more offense in the first inning than they did in all of game one. Following a Aaron Judge walk, Gary Sanchez took a Kluber pitch to center and over the fence for a two-run home run. They threatened to add even more in the first inning, but Cleveland eventually got out of it. The Yankees did make Kluber throw 38 pitches, so it wasn’t a bad start for the offense.
Cleveland immediately got those run back in the bottom of the first. Francisco Lindor reached to lead off the game after a Todd Frazier error. Sabathia got a fly out, but then walked Jose Ramirez on four pitches and hit Edwin Encarnacion with a pitch. Carlos Santana then singled, bringing home two runs to tie the game. In the next at bat, Jay Bruce lined one straight at Didi Gregorius who caught it and dove towards second to try and make the double play. Encarnacion scrambled to get back to the base and rolled his ankle on the bag. He had to come out of the game, and to make things worse for Cleveland was that on review, he was also ruled out after he had come off the base.
The following inning, the Indians went on to take the lead. Austin Jackson led off the inning with a single. Yan Gomes then hit a potential double play ball, but Frazier made his second error of the game as Starlin Castro couldn’t handle his throw. After a bunt and an intentional walk, Jason Kipnis singled home a run, putting Cleveland in front. Sabathia did manage to stop the damage there and got two outs to leave the bases loaded.
The seesaw then swung back in the Yankees’ direction in the top of the third. Sanchez picked up a one-out single and moved to second on a Gregorius ground out. Castro then recorded his second hit of the day, singling to bring home Sanchez. To cap things off, Hicks crushed a home run to right, scoring three runs, and chasing Kluber from the game.
A couple innings later, the Yankees added to their lead. Gregorius led off the fifth with a walk and scored two batters later when Greg Bird hit a two-run home run. At that point, the Yankees looked to be in control.
After the second inning, Sabathia really settled down and didn’t allow a runner in the third, fourth, and fifth innings. In the sixth, he walked a batter and got an out when Joe Girardi decided it was time for the bullpen. With a lot of the major bullpen pieces rested, at the time it made sense to not mess around trying to get extra outs from Sabathia.
Chad Green came in and got the next out, but then allowed a double to Gomes. The next batter was a pinch-hitting Lonnie Chisenhall. After several foul balls, the umpire ruled that an inside pitch hit Chisenhall on the hands to load the bases. On replay, it looked like it hit the bat and not the hands, but for whatever reason, Girardi and the Yankees decided not to challenge it. That ended up being extremely costly as Lindor hit a grand slam in the very next at bat. Suddenly, the lead was down to one run, and Green was removed. David Robertson came in and finished off the inning, but the comfortableness was gone.
Robertson pitched a clean seventh inning and came back out for the eighth. The first batter he faced in the inning was Bruce, who promptly homered to left. The lead was gone. After getting the next batter out, Robertson was removed in favor of Tommy Kahnle.
The teams then exchanged zeros for the next couple innings as the game went into extras. Kahnle threw 0.2 scoreless innings. Aroldis Chapman threw two scoreless. Dellin Betances threw two perfect innings in the 11th and 12th.
In the late innings, the Yankees left runners at third a couple times, but couldn’t push across another run. In one other inexcusable moment, Frazier had reached and then gone to second on an error that went into the stands in the 11th. Ronald Torreyes came in as a pinch runner and got immediately picked off. Based on how the at bats played out in the rest of the inning, a run might not have scored, but it was still beyond frustrating.
Betances came back out for another inning in the 13th, but that’s when things finally fell apart. Jackson drew a walk off him to lead off the inning. He stole second and then came all the way around to score when Gomes singled. After all that, the Yankees lost the game and were now in a 2-0 hole in the series.
Maybe things turn out for the best, but right now the non challenge looks like an inexcusable mistake. For all we know, if they had reviewed it, the call would have been upheld and the same result would have happened. However they didn’t, and we’ll never know. For now, all we have is the frustration of a blown lead.