CLEVELAND -- There's a reason Michael Brantley was selected to the All-Star Game.The Indians left fielder delivered a clutch leadoff home run in the bottom of the eighth in the first-half finale against the Yankees on Sunday, opening the door for a three-run rally -- in which Jose Ramirez joined
CLEVELAND -- There's a reason Michael Brantley was selected to the All-Star Game.
The Indians left fielder delivered a clutch leadoff home run in the bottom of the eighth in the first-half finale against the Yankees on Sunday, opening the door for a three-run rally -- in which Jose Ramirez joined the 20/20 club -- that secured a 5-2 win and a series split for the Tribe at Progressive Field.
Brantley, one of six Indians selected to the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX), hit his 12th homer of the season on an 0-1 offering from reliever Chad Green, sending the ball into the right-field stands to give the Indians (52-43) a 3-2 lead.
"The ball caught a little bit too much of the plate," said Green, who fell to 5-2. "[Brantley] put a good swing on it."
New York owns a 2.69 bullpen ERA -- the best in the Majors. Brantley said he knew it would likely be his best chance at a hit. So he let it rip.
"You know how good the Yankees' bullpen is, how good Green is," Brantley said. You just try to really stay within yourself. I got a pitch out over the plate, put a good swing on it and was lucky to give us the lead."
Carlos Carrasco (11-5) made a critical relief appearance -- his first since Aug. 5, 2014 -- to keep the Yankees (62-33) scoreless in the eighth inning, setting up Cody Allen for his 20th save. Carrasco had made 114 consecutive starts dating back to his last bullpen outing.
"Besides the fact that he did it, he did it so willingly," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That means a lot to us. It's not always the case. Besides the fact that he came in throwing 97 [mph], but just the fact that he did it with a smile."
Indians starter Trevor Bauer allowed two runs and struck out seven over seven innings in a no-decision, his eighth straight quality start. Bauer ended the first half with a team-leading 175 strikeouts -- the third most by a pitcher in franchise history, trailing Bob Feller (190 in 1946) and Sam McDowell (183 in 1970).
Bauer navigated through a 24-pitch first inning by working out of a bases-loaded jam without giving up any damage. Aaron Judge singled to left with one out, and Giancarlo Stanton added a two-out single. Bauer walked Aaron Hicks on six pitches, but forced Greg Bird into a groundout.
In the fourth, Bauer surrendered a two-out solo homer to Neil Walker, which gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead. For the right-hander -- who has allowed a Major League-best 0.40 homers per nine innings -- it was the first long ball he has given up since June 2 to the Twins' Eddie Rosario.
Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion put the Tribe on the board in the fourth with a two-run homer to left to tie the game at 2. The right-handed-hitting Encarnacion unloaded on a first-pitch slider from Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka, scoring Brantley, who led off with a walk.
"That was a big turning point when we were able to string together a little bit longer inning in the fourth," Bauer said. "I think when Eddie hit the homer, tied the game up and it kind of let me catch my breath for the first time. I was pretty good after that."
Bauer ended his 20th start on a high note by retiring the last seven in a row, capped off by a strikeout of Judge looking on an 83-mph breaking ball.
"I thought he pitched his heart out," Francona said. "I thought early, I thought the heat got to him a little bit. I think he was fighting it. He actually was better at the end. In fact, he wanted to stay in, and I don't blame him because he was pitching very well. He's been everything you could ask for and his tank seems like it's going towards full … for a guy throwing as much as he is."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Encarnacion is the Tribe's most experienced hitter against Tanaka. He was 10-for-22 lifetime against Tanaka with a 1.182 OPS heading into Sunday.
"That was a huge hit for us," Francona said of the homer. "You gotta be so disciplined and [Tanaka's] split is such a good pitch, and we were kind of having a hard time."
Encarnacion was hit on the right hand by Green in the eighth inning and was lifted for pinch-runner Erik Gonzalez.
Francona said after the game that Encarnacion got hit on the meat of the hand and was doing OK.
"He checked out fine," Francona said. "He's actually starting to feel better pretty quick. We were going to run for him anyway. That was a big sigh of relief. That looked like it whacked him pretty good."
In the eighth, Ramirez singled, stole second and made it to third on a throwing error by Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka before scoring on Yan Gomes' sacrifice fly. The swipe marked the third baseman's 20th of the season. Coupled with 29 homers, he's the second player in franchise history to have at least 20 stolen bases and 20 homers prior to the Midsummer Classic, joining Grady Sizemore -- who had 23 home runs and 22 stolen bases in 2008.
Ramirez became the fifth player in Major League history with at least 25 home runs and 20 stolen bases at the All-Star break, joining Bobby Bonds (1973), Eric Davis (1987), Alex Rodriguez (1998) and Alfonso Soriano (2006).
"Today, I thought he almost willed himself," Francona said. "He's a great player. He's a great teammate. And he cares about winning, almost desperately. That's a pretty good combination to be all balled up into a 5-foot-9 third baseman."
HE SAID IT
"Yeah, every time he touches the ball, he gets a win. It's unbelievable. He can give up 10. He can give up zero. He can come out of the 'pen. He can start. He freaking vultured my win, man, unbelievable." -- Bauer, joking about Carrasco's relief outing
The Tribe is off for four days for the All-Star break. The Indians will resume play Friday, with a 7 1/2-game lead in the AL Central, when they begin a three-game series against the Rangers at Globe Life Park at 8:05 p.m. ET. Francona has yet to announce his second-half starting rotation. Martin Perez will get the call in the opener for Texas.
Casey Harrison is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.