Tribe drops duel with postseason vibe in Bronx

Puig's rocket arm on display in tough-luck loss for Civale

August 17th, 2019

NEW YORK -- Perhaps the Indians should have saved a few of Thursday's runs for Friday night.

Cleveland dropped the second matchup in its four-game series with the Yankees, falling 3-2 on a warm night at Yankee Stadium. Although the summer weather was unmistakable, the tightly contested ballgame had an October feel to it.

If Thursday's 19-5 blowout felt like an episode of Home Run Derby, Friday's game felt like a postseason preview, as both teams got solid pitching, made some superb defensive plays and landed a couple of timely hits.

Then again, the Indians had only four hits in the game, three of them from the scorching-hot , who homered for the 15th time since June 30. Even worse for the Tribe, there was an error that ultimately proved to be the difference in the game.

Here are three takeaways from Friday night's matchup:

Armed and dangerous
had an eventful night, throwing a runner out at the plate in the second inning, making a fifth-inning error that led to the Yankees' third run, then launching a solo home run against Masahiro Tanaka in the seventh.

Puig's arm also came into play in the bottom of the seventh, when the Yankees loaded the bases with nobody out, only to waste the opportunity thanks to a pair of fly balls to Puig in right field that had New York third-base coach Phil Nevin holding up the runner both times.

"I made good throws to the plate, keeping the runners on third base," Puig said. "The pitchers today did an amazing job. The offense was not the best today; we maybe hit too much last night. That's part of the game. Nobody expected this series was going to be easy for us. That's a good team that we're facing."

The Yankees plated a pair of early runs against rookie Aaron Civale, but Puig threw out Cameron Maybin at the plate to end the second inning when he tried to score on DJ LeMahieu's fly ball to right field.

"Everybody knows in baseball that I can do that," Puig said. "I don't know why people keep running on me."

The Yankees weren't planning to run on Puig in the fifth when Gio Urshela singled to right field with Aaron Judge at second base. Nevin threw up a stop sign, but Puig botched the transfer from his glove as the ball squirted away from him, allowing Judge to score.

"I don't know," Puig said when asked what happened on the play. "I don't have any idea. ... I made a mistake."

"He tried to be too quick with the transfer and it hit the heel of his glove," manager Terry Francona said. "He was [ticked], because he knows if he comes up, the guy doesn't even go."

Puig atoned for that miscue with a solo shot off Tanaka in the seventh, his 24th homer of the season and second since joining the Indians.

Poised vs. pinstripes
Prior to Friday's game, Francona praised Civale for the poise he's shown during the first three starts of his Major League career.

"Nobody knows what's going to happen, but if he does get beat up, it won't be because it was in New York," Francona said two hours before first pitch. "He's going to go pitch his game, and hopefully it's good enough to beat them, but if it isn't, it won't be because he was in awe."

The Yankees scored twice on four hits in the opening frame, but the 24-year-old seemed unfazed. The right-hander limited New York to only one unearned run over the next five innings, keeping the Tribe in the game until he handed the ball over to the bullpen with Cleveland trailing by one.

"He didn't lose his composure; he stayed out there," Francona said. "That's a good lineup from top to bottom. He kept us in the game all the way until we took him out; he gave us a chance. That's a lot to ask of a kid, first time in Yankee Stadium. I thought he did a good job."

Civale, who hails from Windsor, Conn., about a two-hour drive northeast from Yankee Stadium, had several friends and family members on hand for his outing. There weren't many mixed emotions for them, however; like his mother, Civale grew up rooting for the Red Sox, not the Yankees.

"I kind of took it all in," said Civale, who had never stepped foot in the ballpark prior to this week. "It's one of those stadiums you want to check off your list no matter who you are -- player or fan. It was pretty cool to be out there. Good atmosphere."

Great escape
Adam Cimber came into the game to start the seventh, but a double, walk and single loaded the bases with nobody out. The Yankees were threatening to break the game open as Francona called on Oliver Perez to help clean up the mess.

Perez got Didi Gregorius to fly out to right field, where Puig's aforementioned cannon forced Nevin to hold LeMahieu at third. In came Tyler Clippard, who got Gary Sanchez to do the same, with LeMahieu remaining at third base once again.

"I was rubbing his arm when he came in," Clippard said of Puig. "I was like, 'Thank you for your arm.' Most teams would have tried to run on it, but not his. It saved us a run there."

"You have to respect his arm," Francona said. "[Nevin] was probably correct; both guys would probably have been out."

Gleyber Torres popped out to end the inning, leaving the Tribe's deficit at one run.

"In those situations, you really have to just focus one pitch at a time," Clippard said. "It's the most cliche thing and every baseball player says it, but that's the only way you can approach those situations. You have to focus on each pitch, try to execute it, not really worry about too much of the results."