NEW YORK -- Behind a pair of strong pitching performances from Trevor Bauer and Ryan Merritt, the Indians grabbed both ends of Wednesday's doubleheader at Yankee Stadium, finishing off a series sweep of the Yankees with a 9-4 victory in the nightcap.Cleveland improved to a season-high 20 games over .500
NEW YORK -- Behind a pair of strong pitching performances from Trevor Bauer and Ryan Merritt, the Indians grabbed both ends of Wednesday's doubleheader at Yankee Stadium, finishing off a series sweep of the Yankees with a 9-4 victory in the nightcap.
Cleveland improved to a season-high 20 games over .500 as Edwin Encarnacion, Yan Gomes and Francisco Lindor homered in the second game, powering the Indians to their seventh consecutive win while dealing another blow to the Yanks' chances in the American League East race.
Bauer hurled six solid innings in Cleveland's 2-1, Game 1 victory to set up Merritt, who limited New York to a run on five hits over 5 1/3 frames in Game 2. It marked the Indians' first sweep of three or more games in The Bronx since April 7-9, 1989.
"Seeing the way all the other starters are pitching, you feed off them," Merritt said. "To be able to come in and make another start, in this rotation, it's an honor. We're making another run at the playoffs, so just to be able to try to compete and win games in these types of situations, it's just awesome."
The victory improved the Indians' American League Central lead to 7 1/2 games over the Twins, who are hosting the White Sox on Wednesday night. The Yankees trail the Red Sox by five games in the AL East, pending the outcome of Boston's contest with the Blue Jays, but they continue to lead for the first AL Wild Card spot.
"We're in charge of our own destiny. We have to win games," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's impossible not to look at the scores. It's right there. I'd have to really have my head in the sand not to see the scores of games. We have to worry about ourselves."
Yandy Diaz's two-run single highlighted a four-run Indians first inning off Jordan Montgomery, with Encarnacion and Carlos Santana also picking up RBIs. Montgomery settled in to provide four innings, but Encarnacion greeted reliever Chasen Shreve with his 31st homer leading off the fifth. Gomes hit a two-run shot in the seventh, and Lindor went deep in the eighth.
"It's a quick turnaround," Indians manager Terry Francona said of the straight doubleheader. "Frankie [Lindor] was literally kind of eating a sandwich and trying to get out there. And we got after them. It's a good way to play."
Greg Bird hit a three-run homer in the ninth off Zach McAllister, one of just two extra-base hits the Yankees managed in the twin bill. Didi Gregorius had an RBI double in the third inning of Game 1.
"You've got to move on. You've got to put this behind you," Girardi said. "Our struggles on the homestand have really been when we haven't scored runs, for the most part. We need to swing the bats better, that's the bottom line."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Diaz delivers: The Indians were able to keep Diaz's bat in the lineup for Game 2 by playing first baseman Santana in right field, allowing the rookie to serve as the designated hitter. The decision paid off in the first inning, when Diaz capped off Cleveland's four-run outburst with a two-run single to left. That came after Diaz had an RBI single and two walks filling in as the cleanup hitter to provide some rest for Encarnacion in Game 1.
"I just tried to go out there and do what I do, but I struggled that first inning," Montgomery said. "It's baseball. You make a good pitch and they still hit it. Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn't."
Lindor ties record: When Lindor sent an 0-1 pitch from reliever Caleb Smith out to left field in the eighth, the shortstop made some history. The blast was Lindor's 25th of the season, putting him in a tie with Asdrubal Cabrera for the most home runs in one season as a shortstop for the Indians. Cabrera also had 25 from that position in 2011. Lindor's homer was also his sixth in an 11-game stretch.
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"It's a tough thing to do. The travel, breaking up your routines. You go up, you go down. You pitch on seven days, you pitch on five days, you pitch on who knows what. You come up here, you don't have any information on the hitters, because you get here the day of or whatever. It's a big testament to him. He comes out, he executes his game plan. He goes out there, he throws strikes, he forces the other team to beat him, he executes quality pitches. It's been really fun to watch." -- Bauer, on Merritt's performance as a spot starter this year
"I've always loved the thought of pitching in Yankee Stadium, so to finally be able to get out there and see that atmosphere and everything, it was awesome. A dream come true." -- Merritt
GUYER EXITS EARLY
Indians outfielder Brandon Guyer was pulled from Game 2 of Wednesday's twin bill in the fourth inning for precautionary reasons due to a neck strain. In the second inning, Guyer made a diving catch to rob Gregorius of a hit, but the left fielder had to hustle to make up ground at the last moment and landed hard while making the grab.
"He hit the ground pretty hard," Francona said. "The doctor looked at him and didn't feel like he has a concussion. We're certainly going to keep an eye on him tonight and tomorrow, but it looks like it's more like a neck strain."
Indians: Following an off-day on Thursday, the Indians will head to Detroit for a split doubleheader against the Tigers on Friday with first-pitch times of 1:10 p.m. ET and 7:10 p.m. ET. Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (13-6, 3.78 ERA) is scheduled to start Game 1 for the Tribe, with righty Mike Clevinger (7-5, 3.72 ERA) taking the ball in the nightcap.
Yankees: The Yankees open a key four-game showdown with the Red Sox on Thursday evening at 7:05 p.m. ET, when left-hander Carsten Sabathia (10-5, 3.82 ERA) heading to the mound opposite left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (4-4, 4.19 ERA). Sabathia has been dominant against Boston this year, going 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA in three starts.
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Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.