Gregorius, 'pen lead Yanks' charge in opener

July 7th, 2016

CLEVELAND -- The Indians got their first look at the Yankees' three-headed bullpen monster on Thursday night, and the result was a 5-4 victory for New York in the opener of a four-game weekend series at Progressive Field.

The American League Central-leading Indians have had a knack for late-inning heroics at home, where they boast a 25-14 record with four walk-off wins this year, but the Yankees trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman shut down the Tribe over 3 2/3 combined innings.

"I hadn't used them in three days, and that's why I asked them to get us 11 outs tonight," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "My hope was that [Ivan] Nova could get us through six, and we turn it over to them. I felt like I had to make a change. I'll continue to stick to my rules, because their future is important to us."

It was a tall task for the Indians over the final three-plus frames.

"You know going in that they're some of the best in the league," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That doesn't mean you're not going to win. I thought we had some really good at-bats, but it's certainly challenging. Any team, when you get down late, it's hard, but those two guys at the end are pretty special."

Chapman did deal with some late drama, though. With two outs and two runners aboard, Tyler Naquin hit an infield chopper and was deemed safe, loading the bases. The game ended, however, when a Yankees challenge resulted in an overturned call. After a replay review that lasted two minutes and 21 seconds, it was ruled that Chapman reached first just ahead of Naquin, ending the game on a 3-4-1 putout and boos from the crowd.

"It was a big win," Chapman said. "But we still have three more games in the series. We want to try to win the series. We get a break after that, and hopefully in the second half, we can play better baseball."

"We kind of knew [Naquin was out]," Francona said. "[Bench coach Brad Mills] checked. You'd like to be able to hit, but when you know that it's probably going to go against you, you kind of brace for it."

Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova (6-6) picked up the win after allowing four runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings against the Indians. Naquin and second baseman Jason Kipnis each homered off Nova in the third inning, and Nova gave up another pair in the sixth. The righty ended with six strikeouts and no walks in the effort.

Trevor Bauer (7-3) took the loss after being charged with five runs in 5 2/3 innings. The righty was strong out of the gates but then watched the Yankees pound out five runs between the fifth and sixth innings, sending the pitcher to the showers. Among the scoring for New York was a solo homer by Didi Gregorius, who now has a career-high 10 on the season.


Breaking through vs. Bauer: Cleveland's starter cruised through the first four innings, limiting the Yankees to a 1-for-13 showing in that span. Between the start of the fourth until Bauer's exit, however, New York went 7-for-11 off the righty, with five runs charged against him. Headley, Rob Refsnyder and Jacoby Ellsbury each drove in runs in the sixth.


"They were really sharp, good innings," Francona said of Bauer's first four. "[The Yankees] were aggressive with his fastball, and it looked like too many fastballs caught too much of the plate -- probably elevated a little bit, too. They came kind of in a hurry."

Didi goes deep: Gregorius -- who was involved in the 2012 trade that brought Bauer to Cleveland -- went deep off the Indians' starter in the fifth frame. Per Statcast™, his solo shot went an estimated 399 feet with an exit velocity of 103 mph. It sparked a two-run rally, which snapped an 11-inning scoreless streak by Bauer that dated back to June 27.

"Another big night for Didi," said Girardi. "To get us going. We hadn't done a whole lot off of Bauer. We hit some balls hard but didn't have anything to show for it, and then Didi hits the home run."

Naquin keeps raking: Naquin put the Tribe on the board with a leadoff shot in a two-run third inning against Nova. The rookie's blast to center came with a 109-mph exit velocity, making him and Mike Napoli the only Indians batters with homers of at least 109 mph this year. All eight of Naquin's homers have come since his June 1 recall from Triple-A.

"I'm just getting comfortable," Naquin said. "I'm starting to feel like I belong in there and sticking with the same routine. … Whenever you feel like you belong, whenever you really feel comfortable and confident, it's another day at the ballpark and you feel good about yourself."

A crucial K: Betances did his job to get out of the seventh, but not without a brief scare. For the final out, he whiffed pinch-hitter Abraham Almonte on a curveball. The ball got away from catcher Brian McCann, and Almonte hesitated before sprinting to first. With no one covering the plate, Naquin attempted to score from second base for what would have been the tying run. McCann was able to recover and throw out Almonte by a step before he reached first, escaping unscathed.

"You're always trying to do your best for the team," Almonte said. "Hitting, taking advantage of little things like that. That's what we're always looking for, but tonight was not the day that I [saw] it. If I would've picked it up early enough, I would run. It's not the way you want to get on base, but it's for your team. So, if I would've seen the ball early enough, I definitely would run hard." More >


With two on and one out in the sixth, Chase Headley laced a single into right. Starlin Castro tried to score from second and was initially ruled out on a close play at home plate. He appeared to have made it to home in time, but his left leg was raised in the air as he slid. The Yankees challenged the ruling and, following a replay review lasting two minutes and seven seconds, the call was overturned. Headley was credited with an RBI single and Castro's run pushed New York in front, 3-2.

"That's the best thing to happen [having replay in baseball]," Castro said. "Not everyone gets it wrong. But I thought I was safe, and the best thing is they have a replay and saw that I was safe."


Yankees: Right-hander Chad Green (1-1, 4.09 ERA) will get the nod for New York in Game 2 on Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET. He earned another shot after an impressive spot start, in which he allowed one run off three hits to the Padres. He recorded eight strikeouts and did not walk a batter across six innings to earn the win on Sunday.

Indians: Cleveland will send All-Star Corey Kluber (8-8, 3.79 ERA) to the mound on Friday at Progressive Field. While Kluber labored last time out (five runs allowed in 3 1/3 innings on Sunday in Toronto), the righty had a 2.19 ERA with two complete games in five outings in June.

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