CLEVELAND -- Thinking back upon the sun-splashed, chain-link-fenced diamonds that Austin Romine called home while growing up in Southern California, he could not recall circling the basepaths for a Little League home run. That long-awaited opportunity would present itself Saturday evening, providing exactly the lift that his Yankees needed.Romine's deciding
CLEVELAND -- Thinking back upon the sun-splashed, chain-link-fenced diamonds that Austin Romine called home while growing up in Southern California, he could not recall circling the basepaths for a Little League home run. That long-awaited opportunity would present itself Saturday evening, providing exactly the lift that his Yankees needed.
Romine's deciding dash highlighted an unorthodox win for the Yankees, who notched early blasts from Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird, then reclaimed their lead upon the legs of their backup catcher to secure a 5-4 victory over the Indians on Saturday evening at Progressive Field.
"I was excited," Romine said. "With our bullpen, we know that if we can scratch a run off there that we're in good shape. I was glad that I could do my job for the team, which was get on base. It just happened to play out there."
The play at first appeared to be a routine seventh-inning double to the gap in right-center field off starter Mike Clevinger. Right fielder Brandon Guyer bobbled the ball and second baseman Erik Gonzalez's throw skipped past Jose Ramirez at third base, taking a fortuitous bounce and landing in the third-base dugout.
After Romine trotted home, having been punched excitedly by third-base coach Phil Nevin, New York's shutdown bullpen preserved the one-run lead. Winning pitcher Player Page for David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Albertin Chapman fired 3 1/3 scoreless, hitless innings in relief of starter Carsten Sabathia, striking out six.
While manager Aaron Boone rotated between clubhouse chairs for luck, having been ejected for arguing a sixth-inning Giancarlo Stanton strikeout, Chapman weathered a missed popup that fell between Romine and third baseman Miguel Andujar to record his 26th save in 27 opportunities.
"It's definitely more nerve-racking watching up here," Boone said. "I walked about a mile up here. I've watched every TV in this clubhouse. It was a little bit of a wacky game. It wasn't always perfect and pretty, but a really good win for us."
Romine's key knock was delivered one half-inning after the Indians tied the game on an equally surprising play that knocked out Sabathia.
After Andujar made a nice play to take an extra-base hit away from Edwin Encarnacion, there were runners on second and third with two outs. Guyer again challenged the rookie third baseman, who fired across the diamond too late to prevent an infield hit. First baseman Bird threw home, but the ball popped loose of Romine's glove as Ramirez followed Michael Brantley in to score.
"Emotionally speaking, I feel like we're out of the inning, and then, 'Oh no, it's tied,'" Boone said. "In a perfect world, if you read it right away, you go attack that and you get a big hop. But that's one of the tough things about playing that position; you've got to be really quick on your feet as far as making those split-second decisions."
Sabathia settled for a 5 2/3-inning no-decision despite having being staked to a near-instant lead, with Gregorius launching a three-run home run in the first inning -- the shortstop's second homer of the series and 17th of the year.
As Clevinger settled in, building an eight-strikeout effort and keeping the Yankees quiet until Bird's sixth-inning homer, Cleveland chipped away. Ramirez cracked his 29th homer, a first-inning solo shot, and a third-inning Brantley groundout knocked in the second Tribe run off Sabathia, who permitted four hits and two walks while striking out two.
"I felt pretty good," Sabathia said. "Early I was struggling a little bit to throw strikes, but I caught a rhythm there in the middle of the game and just felt like I was cruising."
Bird tied his career best with an eight-game hitting streak, batting .321 (9-for-28) with two doubles, three homers, 12 RBIs and five runs scored over that span. Of his 30 hits this season, 17 have gone for extra bases (eight homers, eight doubles, one triple).
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Boone was ejected for the second time as a manager (also May 22 at Texas) in the sixth inning, arguing that a pitch Stanton swung at had clipped the hitter's bat and should have been ruled a foul ball. Home-plate umpire Ed Hickox believed the pitch hit Stanton's right hand, which would make it a strikeout. Boone argued vehemently, seeking a second opinion from first-base umpire Jerry Meals.
"It looks like they got the call right," Boone said. "I had just thought it was a foul ball. I thought I'd gotten word that it hit hand and bat. I thought it was going to be a bad look when a ball goes back to the screen on a swing. In looking [at the replay] up here, it looks like they got it right. We move on."
"It hit my hand," Stanton said. "I thought it might have caught the bat also. With what I felt on my hand, it's what I thought. I just wanted to get at least another opinion, a second look. The home-plate umpire didn't see either way, so we needed some help somehow."
HE SAID IT
"Why does everybody have fun watching a catcher try to run to third?" -- Romine
The Yankees will conclude their four-game series against the Indians on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. ET, as right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (7-2, 4.68 ERA) pitches the Bombers into the All-Star break. Tanaka is undefeated in his last 10 starts, going 5-0 with a 4.12 ERA and 55 strikeouts over that span. All-Star right-hander Trevor Bauer (8-6, 2.30 ERA) is set to start for Cleveland.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.