The Yankees entered their three-game series against Cleveland badly needing to start a period of excellent play. Thankfully, they were able to get an stress-free victory behind Corey Kluber’s best start since his no-hitter, and lots and lots of home runs.
Kluber was able to work a scoreless first, working around a José Ramírez infield single that Gleyber Torres made a nice diving play on to keep it from going into the outfield, followed by a stolen base. Cleveland starter Zach Plesac matched him in the bottom half, with singles by DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge being erased by a Giancarlo Stanton double play.
The second inning started ignominiously for the Yankees when first baseman Bobby Bradley reached on an error by Anthony Rizzo. However, when left fielder Harold Ramirez flew out to Judge, Bradley strayed too far from the base and New York’s big right fielder was able to throw to first and double him off.
As always, don’t run on Judge.
Joey Gallo then continued his hot streak, leading off the second with a line-drive home run to the second deck in right field to make it 1-0, Yankees. That would start a nice trend for the Yankees’ offense on Friday night.
Gallo be thy name, thy home run come. pic.twitter.com/vt8pL9lWsc— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 17, 2021
It looked like Cleveland might quickly respond, Roberto Pérez singled and Kluber plunked Andrés Giménez to put two men on with none out. Undeterred, the veteran right-hander was able to strike out Myles Straw, induce a Bradley Zimmer flyout, and get the dangerous José Ramirez to ground out to Rizzo at first.
The Yankees extended their lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth on a long Judge home run, his 35th of the season.
Cleveland threatened once again in the top of the fifth, with runners on first and second and no outs following a Peréz walk and Giménez bloop single. It was a strange trend where the last two hitters in Cleveland’s lineup gave Kluber the most trouble. Again, though, the former Cleveland ace managed to induce the speedy Straw to ground into a double play. Zimmer then grounded out as well to keep Cleveland off the board.
Somewhat surprisingly, manager Aaron Boone sent Kluber out for the sixth inning, and he promptly walked José Ramírez to lead things off. Fatigue for Kluber had to be a real concern at this point, but Boone’s faith was rewarded when Franmil Reyes grounded into a double play. Bradley then flew out, and Kluber finished with six innings pitched — the furthest he’s gone into a game since his no-hitter — allowing just four hit and two walks while fanning four in a shutout outing. The Yankees badly needed some length from him, and he delivered.
After another clean half-inning by Plesac, Michael King entered to pitch for New York. He quickly finished the seventh and returned to throw a perfect eighth with two strikeouts. The 26-year-old righty is increasingly looking like a strong bullpen option for the end of the season.
Michael King, 96mph Sinker and 84mph Slider, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/wAg9HInZPk— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 18, 2021
Besides the two solo home runs, Plesac had been cruising, but in the bottom of the seventh, the Yankees were finally able to tack on. Gallo singled on what should have been an out, but Bradley slipped on the grass in foul territory and dropped the baseball. After a Torres walk, Urshela singled to center field to drive in Gallo and knock Plesac out of the game.
Cleveland replaced him with right-hander Nick Wittgren, who promptly gave up a three-run home run to Brett Gardner to blessedly blow the game open for New York:
Wittgren got the next three outs, and J.C. Mejia entered for Cleveland in the bottom of the eighth. Stanton and Gallo greeted him with back-to-back home runs, making it 8-0 and further icing the blowout victory. Lucas Luetge entered for New York to pitch a scoreless ninth inning and finished out the much needed bounce-back win.
The Yankees are now half a game ahead of the Blue Jays in the Wild Card hunt, as Toronto surprisingly fell to Minnesota on Friday night. (Boston beat Baltimore to stay half a game in front.) New York will look to keep the good times rolling tomorrow at 1:05pm ET, as Luis Gil faces Cleveland’s Aaron Civale.