CC Sabathia turned back time striking out nine, Didi Gregorius earned his postseason pinstripes with a pair of home runs, and Joe Girardi is off the hook for the game two he horribly mismanaged.
Along with their bulletproof bullpen, the Wild Card carrying Yankees completed a historical comeback from a 0-2 deficit advancing past the Indians on Wednesday night with a 5-3 elimination game victory, and are headed to the American League Championship for the first time in five years.
In a year denoted as a rebuilding affair, the Yankees blindsided a “better” Cleveland team that seemed destined to redeem their heartbreaking game seven World Series loss against the Cubs last season.
For the second consecutive time the boys from the Bronx gave Cleveland ace Corey Kluber an early exit, knocking him out after 3 2/3 innings on the heels of Didi Gregorius’ prolific bat.
Cleveland’s offense couldn’t catch a break against Sabathia who held the Tribe hitless until Francisco Lindor’s lone single in the fourth.
After striking out leadoff batter Carlos Santana in the fifth, the veteran lefty lost some steam, surrendering four straight singles to Austin Jackson, Jay Bruce, Roberto Perez and Giovanny Urshela, cutting the lead 3-2.
With one away, and runners on first and second, Girardi this time removed Sabathia for good reason, replacing him with the reliable David Robertson, who got Lindor to ground into a rally ending double play.
Relief on both sides of the coin were incredibly effective keeping it a one run game until the top of the ninth when Cody Allen, with two out and two on, lost an epic 12-pitch battle against Brent Gardner, who laced a single to right scoring Aaron Hicks from second.
But Jay Bruce, traded by the Mets in August, killing the Yankees in the first two games of the series, threw the ball wild to shortstop Lindor and it took a bad hop allowing Todd Frazier to hustle home from third to give the Yankees a decisive 5-2 lead that Aroldis Chapman never relinquished.
The Yankees’ resiliency was without the services of rookie sensation Aaron Judge who was on the wrong side of the record books with 14 single-series postseason strikeouts, finishing the five games 1-20 with a double and four walks.
The Indians finished the regular season with 102 wins, a historic 22 straight, stats that weren’t enough to keep the Bronx Bombers at bay.
Lindor after the loss, “Very disappointing. It’s a sad day for me, for the team, for the city of Cleveland and for our families. Hats off to the Yankees. They absolutely outplayed us the last three games and they deserve to win.”
As for Corey Kluber, his consolation prize for an 18-4 regular season record will for certain be the AL Cy Young Award. A feat that may not be a source of comfort for weeks to come.