CLEVELAND -- Austin Jackson worked back from left knee surgery for a moment like this. He wasn't going to let 90 feet and a hard-throwing Yankees reliever stop him.The stats showed Dellin Betances struggles to hold baserunners. Jackson's eyes told him the same thing. Those eyes, heavy as they were
CLEVELAND -- Austin Jackson worked back from left knee surgery for a moment like this. He wasn't going to let 90 feet and a hard-throwing Yankees reliever stop him.
The stats showed Dellin Betances struggles to hold baserunners. Jackson's eyes told him the same thing. Those eyes, heavy as they were getting as Game 2 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan wore on Friday night, also told him that the Indians might not get another chance against the Yanks reliever.
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"It's just observing," Jackson said. "If the situation arises, go ahead and take a shot. Tie game right there, [I was] just looking for a time to be able to get a good jump on and go for it."
Jackson went, and he ended up with the stolen base that set up Yan Gomes' walk-off RBI single, completing Cleveland's comeback for a 9-8 win in 13 innings and putting the Indians a game away from a sweep of the ALDS.
It was a memorable night, the kind Jackson wasn't sure he'd experience again in his career. He was a key part of the Tigers' run to the World Series in 2012, and their memorable AL Championship Series against the Red Sox a year later. But after season-ending knee surgery last year, he didn't know if those days might be over.
Watching the Tribe's run last October motivated Jackson.
"When you're at home rehabbing," he said, "you start to question whether you'll ever step foot back out on a baseball field, and if you'll be able to run the same, if you'll be able to hit the same -- basically use my legs. That's part of my game.
"So it was tough, but I think watching the postseason last year, it definitely inspired me a lot. I started training harder because I wanted to be back in this position."
Jackson jumped at the chance to join Cleveland last offseason, and he got a jump on Betances after a leadoff walk in the 13th inning Friday.
Betances had allowed 59 stolen bases in 69 attempts in his regular-season career, including 21-for-21 last year and 8-for-11 this season. His delivery to the plate gives basestealers an extra split second, an extra stride. So when Jackson got on, he used his legs, taking off on a 1-0 breaking ball.
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According to Statcast™, the average secondary lead on a successful steal against right-handed pitchers is 20.1 feet. Jackson's secondary lead was 27.8 feet.
"Just looking for a time to take that opportunity and just go," Jackson said. "I'm trying my best to get into scoring position right there."
Catcher Gary Sanchez's throw hit second baseman Starlin Castro's glove in 1.92 seconds, faster than the Major League average of 2.02. But Jackson's jump on Betances left Sanchez with little chance.
"Gary threw an unbelievable throw," Betances said. "I probably should have gone a little quicker, but at the same time, I was trying to focus on getting Yan Gomes there. I tried to go quick on the first one, but I think I fell behind. I was trying to do my best to get him out there."
From there, Gomes just had to move Jackson over. Instead, Gomes' hit down the left-field line brought him around and let him be a part of the postseason magic.
"This is the time that moments like tonight happen," Jackson said. "That's postseason baseball for you right there."
Jason Beck has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.