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Yankees 5, Indians 4: Austin Romine’s Little League home run wins it for the Bombers

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Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird go deep as the Yankees keep pace with the Red Sox in the AL East.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

This game had a little bit of everything. It was long balls versus small ball for awhile, but Cleveland’s two errors on Austin Romine’s seventh-inning double proved the difference in the contest. The Yankees defeated the Indians 5-4 at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

Brett Gardner got the game started in the same way he has so many times before. The team’s spark plug drew a six-pitch walk, Aaron Judge followed with a single, and Didi Gregorius crushed his 17th home run of the year to give the Yankees a quick 3-0 lead before making an out in the first inning.

The Indians got a run back in the home half of the frame. With two outs, Jose Ramirez hit CC Sabathia’s 2-2 offering over the high wall and into the right-center field seats. It was actually a pretty good slider by CC, down and away. It should have been an out pitch, but the slugger went down and got it.

Cleveland played small ball to cut the deficit to 3-2 in the second inning. Erik Gonzalez led off with a single, stole second, moved to third on a groundout, and scored on another groundout. It was perfectly-executed A-B-C baseball by the Indians.

The Yankees did a good job driving up Cleveland starter Mike Clevinger’s pitch count early. The right-hander needed 59 pitches to complete three innings, but settled down to retire the Bombers quickly in order in the fourth. New York also wasted a one-out double by Gardner in the fifth. The plan may have been to drive Clevinger from the game early and get into that soft Indians bullpen, but the Yankees ended up getting all the runs they needed off the starter.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone got tossed by home-plate umpire Ed Hickox after coming out of the dugout to argue in the top of the sixth. Giancarlo Stanton had just struck out swinging on a pitch that hit his hand. Boone unsuccessfully argued that the ball also hit the knob of Stanton’s bat and should have been ruled a foul tip, thus extending the at-bat. Boone admitted after the game that he was wrong to argue the call.

The delay may have benefited the Yankees. Two batters later, Greg Bird belted a towering shot to right field to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead. It was Bird’s eighth home run of the year, as well as his 11th RBI in the last five games. The first baseman is finally heating up.

The lead didn’t last, though. Sabathia had been cruising along, spinning a two-hitter, when the Indians got incredibly lucky in the bottom of the sixth. Michael Brantley reached on a one-out infield single, Ramirez walked, and the runners moved up on a groundout. It appeared that CC might escape the jam, but it wasn’t to be.

Brandon Guyer hit a one-hopper right to Miguel Andujar at third base. Andujar fielded the ball cleanly and fired it to first, but Guyer just beat the errant throw. With the runners moving on contact, they both scored on the play to tie the game. That ended CC’s night. The veteran gave up three of the softest runs we’ll ever see, and truly deserved a better game.

As bad as the Bombers’ luck may have been during that frame, the tables turned in their favor in the top of the seventh. Romine led off by hitting a rope into the right-center field gap, splitting the outfielders. It was an easy double, even for the slow-footed catcher, but Romine never stopped running. When the ball was fumbled and skipped away from right-fielder Guyer, Romine slid head first safely into third ahead of the relay throw. Romine was still lying on the ground when the ball got past third baseman Ramirez and into the dugout. Romine was awarded home plate on this classic “Little League” home run, giving the Yankees a 5-4 lead.

That was the ballgame, thanks to another stellar performance by New York’s dominant bullpen. David Robertson walked the first batter he faced in relief of Sabathia, but rebounded to strike out the next hitter. D-Rob threw a perfect frame in the seventh, Dellin Betances did the same in the eighth, and Aroldis Chapman pitched around a one-out walk in the ninth to earn his 26th save. The trio recorded six of their 10 outs on strikeouts.

It was a great win for the Yankees during a game that saw their opponents score three times without hitting the ball out of the infield. New York is now 21-2 when scoring first on the road, the best mark in baseball.

With the victory, the Yankees improve their record to 62-32. The red hot Red Sox won today on a walk-off tenth-inning grand slam, so New York remains two games behind Boston in the loss column in the AL East race. Join us for the first-half finale tomorrow, as Masahiro Tanaka (7-2, 4.68 ERA) looks to pitch the Bombers to the series win against Cleveland and Trevor Bauer (8-6, 2.23 ERA). First pitch is set for 1:10 PM EDT.