By: Billy Lewis
The New York Yankees were able to achieve the improbable, they erased a 2-0 deficit and defeated the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series. Many people expected the Indians to win the World Series this year. After all last year, they had a 3-1 lead in the World Series before losing the final three games, taking Game Seven into extra innings.
The ALDS Game One turned into the Trevor Bauer show. The Indians decided to start Bauer instead of Cy Young favorite Corey Kluber, and Bauer shut down the Yankees. Bauer was masterful through 6.2 innings and the Indians won Game One 4-0. Had the Yankees lost this series, Game Two would have lived on in infamy. The Indians started Kluber, but the Yankees were able to get to him early. Gary Sanchez hit a two-run blast in the first inning but the Indians tied the game in the bottom of the first inning.
The Yankees started C.C Sabathia in Game Two and after the Indians took a 3-2 lead in the second he settled down. The Yankees jumped on Kluber in the third inning. They were able to tie the game and then took a three-run lead after Aaron Hicks hit a three-run homer off Kluber. The Yankees knocked out Kluber after just 2.2 innings pitched. In the fifth inning, Greg Bird added a two-run home run and the Yankees had a commanding 8-3 lead.
Sabathia was cruising but manager Joe Girardi took him out in the sixth inning. Girardi called on Chad Green and that’s when things got dicey. Green wasn’t at his sharpest and with two outs and two on had a lengthy battle with pinch-hitter Lonnie Chisenhall. Chisenhall wound up winning the battle getting “hit” by a pitch and loading the bases. Sanchez was adamant after the hit by pitch that the ball didn’t hit Chisenhall and actually hit the bat. Sanchez held onto the ball after it “hit” Chisenhall and had Girardi challenged the call the Yankees would most likely have been out of the inning.
The game seemed to get away from Girardi and he didn’t challenge, stating they were not able to get the slow-mo view replay and didn’t want to risk the challenge. Two pitches later Fransico Lindor hit a grand slam and cut the Yankees lead to 8-7. Jay Bruce would tie the game in the bottom of the eighth inning with a home run and the Indians would eventually win the game in the 13th inning.
The Game Two loss was crushing. It put the Yankees back against the wall and could have been crushing. Not for these 2017 Yankees though. Masahiro Tanaka pitched a masterful Game Three. He threw seven shutout innings, and Greg Bird launched a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh. The Yankees won Game Three 1-0 and the comeback was on.
The Yankees handed the ball to Luis Severino in Game Four. They jumped out to a 5-0 lead and Severino was able to erase his Wild Card demons. Severino finished with seven innings and nine strikeouts. Behind Severino, the Yankees won the game 7-3 and tied the series.
Game Five was a rematch of Game Two, Kluber vs Sabathia. Game Five also turned into the Didi Gregorius show. Girardi swapped Gregorius and Sanchez before Game Four, so Gregorius was batting in the three hole. He was able to jump Kluber early and give the `Yankees a quick 1-0 lead with a solo home run in the top of the first inning. Gregorius extended the Yankees lead in the third inning, hitting a two-run homer off Kluber.
Sabathia was perfect through three innings. Behind Sabathia’s strong start and Gregorius’s power display, the Yankees had a 3-0 lead after three innings. The Indians scored two runs in the fifth and the Yankees had a 3-2 lead entering the ninth. Brett Gardner put together the at-bat of his career. On the 12th pitched he roped a single into right field that scored two runs and extended the Yankees lead to 5-2.
Todd Frazier scored the fifth run on pure hustle. He went to third on Gardner’s single and after the throw from the outfield bounced away from Lindor, Frazier broke for home. That gave the Yankees the breathing room they needed and they won the game 5-2 to advance to the American League Championship Series.
The Yankees improved to 4-0 in elimination games this postseason. More impressively they have yet to trail after a full inning in elimination games. The Game Two loss seemed crushing at the time. Instead, the Yankees fought back and won the next three games. The Yankees advance to play the Astros in the ALCS, their first ALCS trip since 2012.