CLEVELAND -- The storybook run for Jay Bruce in this city continued onto the October stage on Thursday with a two-run homer that helped the Indians take a 4-0 win over the Yankees in the opener of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan.But maybe the best sign of
CLEVELAND -- The storybook run for Jay Bruce in this city continued onto the October stage on Thursday with a two-run homer that helped the Indians take a 4-0 win over the Yankees in the opener of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan.
But maybe the best sign of Bruce's fortunes in Cleveland was the blast from his past.
:: ALDS schedule and coverage ::
Bruce and the Yanks' Jaime Garcia were National League Central rivals for years, playing for Cincinnati and St. Louis, respectively. And Garcia has usually won out, holding Bruce to a .211 average (12-for-57) with one homer and 15 strikeouts, including 3-for-24 since 2014 and 0-for-3 at Yankee Stadium this past Aug. 30.
• Shop for AL Central champs gear
"He's always been a very tough at-bat for me," Bruce said.
So when Garcia entered the game in the fifth and put Bruce in an 0-2 count with a runner in scoring position and one out, it seemed like a continuation. But Bruce shrugged off three sliders in the dirt -- one of which got past catcher Gary Sanchez for a wild pitch, moving Jose Ramirez to third base -- and ran the count full before sending a fastball to center for a sacrifice fly.
That's how things are going for Bruce, just in case the home run that crept over the right-field fence wasn't enough of a sign.
"I'm very, very aware of how much runs come at a premium in the playoffs," Bruce said, "and for us to get that extra run up there was very, very important."
Bruce scored or drove in every Indians run on Thursday, some more glamorous than others -- he crossed the plate in the second when Roberto Perez grounded into a double play. He also drew "Bruuuuuuce" cheers loud enough to wonder if noted Yankees fan Bruce Springsteen had made a road trip.
"Tonight it was me," Bruce said. "Tomorrow it could be any of those other 24 guys on the roster right now."
Maybe, but fate seems to smile on Bruce since his Aug. 9 trade from the Mets. The Indians are 43-9 since his arrival, including Thursday's win against the team that nearly beat out the Tribe to acquire him.
Bruce just missed a home run his first time up on Thursday, against Sonny Gray, doubling off the high wall in left field to lead off the second inning before scoring on the Perez play. He then stepped back up in the fourth after a leadoff walk to Edwin Encarnacion and sent a Gray pitch skyward toward right.
The 42-degree launch angle was the highest recorded on any of Bruce's home runs since Statcast™ began tracking such data in 2015. The ball hung up long enough that Aaron Judge followed it back to the fence, preparing for a chance at a catch, but the ball landed in the seats, having traveled an estimated 371 feet.
"I was blowing on it, so it probably got some help," manager Terry Francona said. "You know, he took such a good swing the first at-bat when he drove that ball to left field. More often than not, when a guy hits the ball the other way with authority, he's on balance, and he's doing some things right."
Bruce's third career postseason homer -- he hit one in 2010 and another in '12, both for the Reds -- sparked a fourth-inning onslaught that chased Gray from the game. It also continued his late-season run, with eight homers for the Indians since his arrival.
"I'm very, very fortunate to be here," he said. "I couldn't have fallen into a better situation."
Jason Beck has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.