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Yankees 2, Cleveland 1: Tightrope walk completed

A brilliant pitcher’s duel ended with the Yankees’ first win of the series.

MLB: New York Yankees at Cleveland Indians Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

In a game featuring Danny Salazar’s fastball and slider, it’s not unbelievable a cold-hitting team might struggle. What was surprising was the force and direction with which Jordan Montgomery dominated the formidable Cleveland lineup, holding the fort for the victorious Yankees in a 2-1 contest.

Montgomery was simply fantastic, striking out seven, inducing another four groundouts and throwing 72% (!!) of his pitches for strikes. After a terrible outing last week, Monty needed to play the stopper for the Yankees, and he did so in incredible fashion. He was taken out after just five innings and 65 pitches, but with his usage a concern in 2017, it made sense for Joe Girardi to go to his incredible bullpen.

We’ll get back to the bullpen in a second, but first let’s talk offense. The Yankees have been struggling with the sticks for about a week now, and that didn’t really change tonight. The first inning looked promising, as Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge both reached before Didi Gregorius cashed in one with an RBI double. The Yankees were poised for a big inning with runners on second and third, but couldn’t get one more hit to bust the game open. Oh well.

The middle innings were pitching-dominant, with Montgomery doing his job and Salazar recording a career-high 12 strikeouts. The starters combined for just three walks, showing that Angel Hernandez or not, they were around the plate all night.

The game was knotted at one when 2017 AL MVP Chase Headley stepped to the plate in the eighth. The third/first baseman has been an impressive offensive force in the second half, and delivered in a big way:

The solo shot gave the Yankees the 2-1 lead they would not relinquish, as David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman combined to throw four innings, with zero walks and striking out five.

Offensive struggles notwithstanding, it’s clear this was the ideal game for the post-deadline Yankees. One of the young starters pitches impressively, before giving way to an overwhelming relief corps. No Yankee pitcher walked a batter tonight, and all told, 12 Cleveland outs were made with three strikes. The team recorded just six hits in one of the most dominant performances of this pitching staff this season.

The great pitching may continue for the Yankees, as ace Luis Severino is tabbed for the fourth and final game in Ohio tomorrow. First pitch is at 1:10pm EDT, tune in and see if the Yankees can salvage a split before heading to Toronto.