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AL Division Series A

DYK? Facts, figures from wild Wednesday

MLB.com

One Game 5 was set up Wednesday. Another was settled.

Stephen Strasburg overcame an illness to stave off elimination, with help from a Michael A. Taylor grand slam, and the Nationals shut out the Cubs, 5-0, at Wrigley Field in Game 4 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile. Washington will try to advance to the NL Championship Series presented by Camping World for the first time in club history on Thursday at Nationals Park, with the Dodgers waiting in the wings.

One Game 5 was set up Wednesday. Another was settled.

Stephen Strasburg overcame an illness to stave off elimination, with help from a Michael A. Taylor grand slam, and the Nationals shut out the Cubs, 5-0, at Wrigley Field in Game 4 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile. Washington will try to advance to the NL Championship Series presented by Camping World for the first time in club history on Thursday at Nationals Park, with the Dodgers waiting in the wings.

Later in the evening, the Yankees scored three early runs against Indians ace Corey Kluber and held on for a 5-2 victory at Progressive Field in Game 5 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan. That made New York just the eighth team in Division Series history to rally from an 0-2 series deficit, and only the fifth to do it under the current 2-2-1 format (out of 43 who fell into that hole).

Dress for ALCS: Get Yankees' postseason gear

The Yanks advance to face the Astros in the AL Championship Series presented by Camping World, which begins Friday.

Here are some notable facts and figures to know from a wild Wednesday of postseason action.

Yanks complete trip back from brink

• The Yankees and Indians' pitchers combined for 125 strikeouts in Games 1 through 5, setting a record for five-game postseason series. The previous record was 111 combined punchouts by the Dodgers and Mets in the 2015 NLDS.

New York and Cleveland pitchers combined for 31 strikeouts in Game 5, also setting a benchmark for the most combined punchouts in a nine-inning postseason game. The previous mark was 28 strikeouts by the Astros and Royals in Game 4 of the 2015 ALDS.

The Yanks are the first team to win a nine-inning postseason game while striking out at least 16 times.

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Sabathia strikes out nine in Cleveland

• Coming into this postseason, teams that won the first two games at home in a Division Series with the current 2-2-1 format had gone on to win the series 22 of 24 times. The Astros and Dodgers extended that record to 24-2. But the Indians could not keep the trend going. They join the 2003 A's (vs. Red Sox) and 1999 Indians (vs. Red Sox) in that club.

• What home-field advantage? With the Yankees' victory, road teams improved to 18-13 all-time in Division Series Game 5s, including 15-6 since 2002. The Yanks joined the 2012 Giants (vs. Reds), 2003 Red Sox and 1999 Red Sox as the only teams to finish off a comeback from a 2-0 Division Series deficit by winning Game 5 on the road.

Surprisingly, the Yankees' victory means home teams are 53-53 in winner-take-all games in postseason history.

• Going back to 1999, the Tribe is 3-17 in potential postseason clinchers, having lost six in a row since finishing off the ALCS against the Blue Jays last year.

Didi Gregorius went deep twice against Kluber, homering in the first and third innings. It marked the second multi-homer performance this postseason, after Jose Altuve hit three in Game 1 of the Astros' ALDS matchup with the Red Sox. Gregorius is the 17th player in Yankees history to hit multiple home runs in a playoff game -- Babe Ruth (four), Bernie Williams (two), Lou Gehrig (two) and Mickey Mantle (two) all did it more than once -- and the first since Raul Ibanez in Game 3 of the 2012 ALDS vs. the Orioles.

Video: NYY@CLE: Gregorius reflects on homers, progression

• Only eight players before Gregorius had homered at least twice in a winner-take-all postseason game. Two of those players were Yanks: Yogi Berra in Game 7 of the 1956 World Series and Jason Giambi in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

• Following his home run against Minnesota in the AL Wild Card Game, Gregorius is now the first player to hit as many as three homers in winner-take-all contests in a single postseason.

• Until this series, Kluber had never allowed multiple home runs in consecutive starts. Game 5 also marked his third straight postseason start having allowed multiple homers, going back to Game 7 of last year's World Series.

• Kluber allowed a home run on his trademark curveball for the second straight game -- Gregorius' second homer in Game 5 and Aaron Hicks' homer in Game 2 both came against his curve. Kluber only allowed two home runs on his curveball in the 2017 regular season. Hitters had slugged just .149 against his curveball all season, the lowest mark among regular starting pitchers.

• Kluber could not complete four innings in either of his ALDS starts -- he lasted just 3 2/3 innings in Game 5, after going 2 2/3 innings in Game 2. He had never in his career gone back-to-back starts in which he did not complete four innings.

• In the second inning, Jacoby Ellsbury reached base on a catcher's interference -- which he's done more than any other player in MLB history. Ellsbury is the all-time catcher's interference record-holder, with 31 drawn in the regular season. He's also now the only player to have drawn multiple postseason catcher's interferences -- he also had one in Game 1 of the 2009 ALDS, when he was still with the Red Sox.

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Ellsbury goes to first on interference

• Four straight one-out singles by the Indians in the fifth brought in two runs, and David Robertson from the bullpen. Still, Yankees starter CC Sabathia finished his night with nine strikeouts. That tied the left-hander's career high in the postseason, set in a complete game against the Orioles in Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS. It also set a postseason record for the most by any pitcher who completed fewer than five innings.

Andrew Miller fulfilled his fireman role again for Cleveland, coming on in relief of Kluber in the fourth and holding the Yankees scoreless over two innings of relief. Miller struck out five Yanks, making him the first pitcher in history to notch three postseason relief appearances with at least five strikeouts. The other two for Miller came in Games 1 and 2 of the 2016 ALCS against the Blue Jays.

Video: Miller dominant out of the 'pen

Brett Gardner added insurance for New York in the top of the ninth, muscling a single to right that ended up driving home two runs after an error by Indians right fielder Jay Bruce. Gardner's hit came on the 12th pitch of his at-bat against Tribe closer Cody Allen, tying teammate Chase Headley's 12-pitch walk against Miller in Game 1 for the longest plate appearance by any player in the 2017 postseason so far.

Aaron Judge had another four-strikeout game Wednesday, marking his fourth "golden sombrero" already this October -- a record for any player over an entire postseason career, let alone a single series. Judge's 16 strikeouts over the five games against the Indians are also a record for a player in any single postseason series.

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Indians strike out Judge four times

Aroldis Chapman sent the Yankees on to the ALCS by completing the final two innings. It was the seventh time in the Divisional Era (since 1995) that a pitcher notched a scoreless save of at least two innings in a postseason clincher. Most recently Jeurys Familia did it for the Mets against the Dodgers in Game 5 of the 2015 NLDS. The Yanks' Mariano Rivera did it twice in the ALDS -- in 1999's Game 3 against the Rangers and 2001's Game 5 against the A's. 

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Chapman sends Yankees to the ALCS

Nats back Stras, force Game 5

• With seven scoreless innings, Strasburg's career postseason ERA is now 0.47 (one earned run in 19 innings over three starts). The 29-year-old right-hander owns the lowest postseason ERA among active starting pitchers who have made at least three postseason starts. The Cubs' Kyle Hendricks (1.98 ERA in eight starts) is second, followed by Matt Cain (2.10 ERA in eight starts), Madison Bumgarner (2.11 ERA in 14 starts) and Dallas Keuchel (2.29 ERA in three starts).

Video: Watch Strasburg's 22 strikeouts in NLDS in 22 seconds

• With 12 strikeouts to go with his 10 from Game 1, Strasburg tied Justin Verlander's record of 22 strikeouts in a Division Series, which was set in 2012 while with the Tigers. He also joined Verlander ('12 and '13 Tigers) and Cliff Lee ('10 Rangers) as the only pitchers to reach double-digit strikeouts twice in the same Division Series. The only other pitchers to do it in any postseason series are Mike Mussina (1997 ALCS for Orioles), Bob Gibson ('67 and '68 World Series for Cardinals) and Sandy Koufax ('65 World Series for Dodgers).

Strasburg also joined Verlander (2013 ALDS) and Koufax (1965 World Series) as the only pitchers to strike out at least 10 batters and allow no earned runs in multiple starts in the same postseason series.

• After Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle followed Strasburg with a scoreless inning each, the Nationals had their first postseason shutout in club history. In franchise history, the Expos tossed two in 1981 -- in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Phillies and Game 2 of the NLCS against the Dodgers. Both were solo efforts, by Steve Rogers and Ray Burris, respectively.

• Entering Game 4, Strasburg had gotten zero runs of support over 12 career postseason innings pitched. The only active pitcher to have pitched more postseason innings without a run of support was the Yankees' Sonny Gray (16 1/3 innings pitched). That changed when the Nationals scored a run in the third inning and four in the eighth.

• Taylor provided the Nationals with some much-needed breathing room in the eighth, lifting a grand slam to right field off Wade Davis for a 5-0 lead. It was the first postseason slam in franchise history, which includes the Expos. Taking into account a Jayson Werth strikeout in the fourth inning, the Nats had been 1-for-11 with a single, a hit by pitch, three RBIs and six strikeouts in bases-loaded situations in the postseason (since 2012).

Video: WSH@CHC Gm4: Taylor belts a grand slam in 8th inning

• Davis previously had not allowed a homer in 24 career postseason relief outings, which consisted of 29 1/3 innings. His only home run allowed in the playoffs came in his first career postseason game -- when he was still a starter for the Rays in 2010. That home run was hit by Texas' Nelson Cruz in Game 4 of the ALDS.

Davis had allowed just one grand slam in his career, also as a starter. That was on July 10, 2013, with the Royals against the Yanks' Lyle Overbay.

• In the second inning, Addison Russell came close to knocking a two-run homer off Strasburg that would have given the Cubs a lead. But thanks to the weather at Wrigley Field, the ball got knocked down harmlessly, just in front of the ivy, for a flyout. With an exit velocity of 96.0 mph and a launch angle of 30 degrees, according to Statcast™, batted balls like Russell's aren't always a home run -- but they can be, and they have been at Wrigley before. Since Statcast™ started tracking in 2015, 17 of 79 similar batted balls to Russell's hit at Wrigley Field -- those within two mph of exit velocity and two degrees of launch angle -- have been home runs (24.1 percent). By right-handed hitters specifically, 13 of 47 (27.7 percent) have been homers.

Kris Bryant became the first player in Cubs postseason history to strike out four times in a game. Bryant has a pair of four-strikeout games in the regular season, but both came in 2015.

Video: WSH@CHC Gm4: Lester picks off Zimmerman in 8th inning

Jon Lester not only gave the Cubs 3 2/3 strong innings of relief, but also overcame his infamous throwing issues to pick Ryan Zimmerman off first base in the eighth on a play that was overturned upon review. After recording 24 pickoffs over his first six MLB seasons, the lefty had just three since 2012, including one this year (June 3 vs. the Cardinals' Tommy Pham). He had never picked off a runner in the postseason.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs

Didi slugs way into Yankees' postseason lore

Shortstop homers twice vs. Kluber in ALDS-clinching win
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- When the Yankees pursued Didi Gregorius as the potential successor following Derek Jeter's storied tenure at shortstop, the decision-makers in the front office expected him to be an above-average defensive player who featured occasional pop against right-handed pitching.

Dress for the ALCS: Buy Yankees' postseason gear

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CLEVELAND -- When the Yankees pursued Didi Gregorius as the potential successor following Derek Jeter's storied tenure at shortstop, the decision-makers in the front office expected him to be an above-average defensive player who featured occasional pop against right-handed pitching.

Dress for the ALCS: Buy Yankees' postseason gear

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"Postseason hero" did not appear on any of the scouting reports that accompanied Gregorius' arrival, but it will now forever be part of his history in the Bronx. Gregorius homered off Corey Kluber in his first two at-bats on Wednesday, helping to power the Yanks to a 5-2 victory over the Indians in the deciding Game 5 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan.

:: ALDS schedule and coverage ::

"It means a lot," Gregorius said. "It's one of the big moments so far in my career. I tried to help the team and came up big right there with a couple of home runs."

Gregorius ensured that the Yankees never trailed in the final three games of the ALDS, providing CC Sabathia with a near-instant lead in the first inning to help propel the franchise to its 16th appearance in the AL Championship Series presented by Camping World.

"Didi is the one who set the tone," said Yanks outfielder Brett Gardner. "Corey Kluber is as tough as it gets. For us to come out and get an early lead against him and give CC a little bit of room to work with, it was really nice."

In the first inning, Gregorius said he was sitting on a 1-2 fastball from Kluber, who obliged with a 94.1 mph offering that Gregorius mashed high and deep into the right-field seats, silencing all but a small pocket of Yankees fans packed into Progressive Field. The two-out homer had a 95 mph exit velocity and a 32 degree launch angle, according to Statcast™. It was projected to travel 375 feet.

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Didi's two homers total 753 feet

"It's only what, my third hit in the postseason?" Gregorius said. "I always want to try to get better for the team. I try to get on base and everything. It's really important for me and for the team. It was amazing to get everybody going. For me, it was probably the key hit right now in my career."

Gregorius -- whose 25 regular-season homers set a Yanks shortstop record previously held by Jeter -- struck again in the third inning. With one man on and one out, Gregorius sent Kluber's 0-1 curve for a ride into right field. The blast, which also scored Gardner, traveled out at 99 mph with a 31 degree launch angle, going a Statcast-projected 378 feet.

Having also hit a three-run homer in the first inning of the Yankees' 8-4 win over the Twins in the AL Wild Card Game, Gregorius has three home runs this postseason, though he came into Game 5 with just one hit in 13 ALDS at-bats.

"He's been incredible," Sabathia said. "Each year he gets a lot better at the plate. Defensively, he's amazing. And he's the middle of our defense and the middle of our lineup, and he carries us a long way."

Video: NYY@CLE: Gregorius reflects on homers, progression

Gregorius became just the fourth player to take Kluber deep twice in the same game, joining the Rangers' Rougned Odor (April 3, 2017), the A's Matt Chapman (July 15, 2017) and the Tigers' Justin Upton (Sept. 16, 2016).

"Two pitches, really. I made two mistakes to Didi," Kluber said. "I put two balls right into his bat path and he's a good hitter. He hit two home runs. That's really what stands out. It ended up being the difference."

Gregorius is the fourth Yanks player to have a multihomer game in an ALDS. The last to do it was Raul Ibanez in Game 3 on Oct. 10, 2012, vs. the Orioles. Wednesday's effort was the 24th time a Yankee hit more than one homer in a postseason game, a feat accomplished by 18 players. 

Video: Extended Cut: Gregorius hits two HRs in ALDS Game 5

"Whenever we needed a clutch hit or someone to come up big for us, it's been Didi all year doing that for us," Aaron Judge said. "To see him come up big like that against a Cy Young winner is pretty impressive."

In winner-take-all postseason games, there have been just nine multihomer performances. Gregorius is the third Yankees player to do so, joining Yogi Berra (Game 7 of 1956 World Series) and Jason Giambi (Game 7 of the 2003 AL Championship Series).

"I always believed in myself," Gregorius said. "There's always people that are going to doubt you. At the end, it's up to you how hard you want to work."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Didi Gregorius

For Tribe, too much change not a good thing

ALDS loss magnifies difference between 2016 run, post-Streak club
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- The story of the 2016 Indians' postseason run was that the club rose above hardship -- the losses of Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Michael Brantley -- to reach extra innings of Game 7 of the World Series. And that story was mostly triumphant.

But in our rush to romanticize the adversity overcome, it was to overlook the benefits of those bad breaks. Terry Francona and the Tribe were painted into a corner and forced to maximize what they had. It was all about aggressive hooks with a depleted rotation and trust in a deep and healthy bullpen. Devoid of choices, the Indians followed the only path by which they could prevail. And it darn near won them a title nearly 70 years in the making.

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CLEVELAND -- The story of the 2016 Indians' postseason run was that the club rose above hardship -- the losses of Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Michael Brantley -- to reach extra innings of Game 7 of the World Series. And that story was mostly triumphant.

But in our rush to romanticize the adversity overcome, it was to overlook the benefits of those bad breaks. Terry Francona and the Tribe were painted into a corner and forced to maximize what they had. It was all about aggressive hooks with a depleted rotation and trust in a deep and healthy bullpen. Devoid of choices, the Indians followed the only path by which they could prevail. And it darn near won them a title nearly 70 years in the making.

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It was different this year. And in the wake of the Tribe's stunning collapse against the Yankees in the American League Division Series presented by Doosan, we can safely say the differences, well, made a difference.

There's a U2 lyric that goes, "Freedom looks like too many choices." The name of that song is "New York," and perhaps that's appropriate given the location where it all began to fall apart for an Indians team that had too many choices, and in the end, too few satisfying selections.

:: ALDS schedule and coverage ::

If Corey Kluber was beset by another back injury ("I think he's fighting a lot," Francona said after Game 5), that's obviously a major hurdle. But Kluber's situation wasn't devastating enough to keep him from taking the ball. That's your basic gray area where you can neither sit nor completely trust your ace. It's easier to understand now why Francona went with Roberto Perez behind the plate and not Kluber's more frequent batterymate, Yan Gomes, in Game 5 while touting Perez's ability to make in-game adjustments. There was never a confident expectation that Kluber was going to go deep into Game 5, and Cleveland was counting on employing the 'pen early and often.

Regarding that 'pen -- its makeup was unusual. The Indians deprived themselves of more traditional middlemen (Nick Goody, Dan Otero and Zach McAllister would have had no trouble cracking your average postseason roster) to look for length. They rostered starters Mike Clevinger and Salazar as relievers, but by Game 5, when Kluber was yanked in the fourth, it was clear that trust in those two was something south of implicit. Somehow, the team with "too many quality starters" still wound up pitching Trevor Bauer on short rest in the fourth game of the ALDS ... with a series lead, no less.

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Francona reflects on the Indians' season

Clevinger, remember, had been Cleveland's best starter during The Streak -- that 22-game run of baseball brilliance that now, unfortunately, stands as a footnote of a feat. The fact that he wasn't even a starter at all by the time the postseason began speaks to a general trend of a team that metamorphosed quite a bit between September and October.

How does a team win its 22nd consecutive ballgame one month, then squander a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five the next?

Well, in part because this wasn't really the same team that won 22 straight.

Bradley Zimmer got injured during The Streak, and that left the Indians without a steady presence in center field. So second baseman Jason Kipnis, who was injured for the entirety of The Streak, became a center fielder, in a scrambling effort to get his bat back in the lineup while retaining the awesome infield defense that took place in his injury absence. But in the ALDS, Kipnis went 4-for-22 and the defense fell apart with nine errors, two of which were critical ones committed by the formerly fantastic young third baseman (and easy out at the plate) Giovanny Urshela.

Speaking of Urshela, Cleveland spent the latter part of the season preparing him for a postseason super utility role, only to upgrade him to starting third baseman just as October arrived. Yandy Diaz, who had established himself as the primary third baseman during The Streak, wasn't even on the roster.

The Tribe had various Spring Training elements sprinkled into the postseason, which is not ideal. Brantley was working on his timing at the plate after so much time lost to an ankle injury; likewise Lonnie Chisenhall after a calf issue. Andrew Miller was outstanding in Game 5, but his last few weeks were obviously an uphill climb toward his usual standard because of patellar tendinitis in his plant leg.

So there was a lot of this strange stuff going on, and maybe none of it affected the bottom line, because the truth is that even the Indians, who didn't have a lead after Game 2, were outplayed and were fortunate to have a phantom hit-by-pitch in Game 2 go their way. Furthermore, losing Edwin Encarnacion for two full games only amped up the pressure on Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor, both of whom were mostly AWOL (save Lindor's gargantuan game-changing grand slam in Game 2, of course) at the plate.

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Lindor on falling short in ALDS Game 5

But the point here is that little on this club was clear cut. In 2016, it was all pretty matter-of-fact: without its two best starters, the Tribe was left to pick up the pieces. This time, the pieces were scattered all over the place. There were too many injuries and issues that kept Cleveland from attaining traction when it mattered most.

None of this absolves the Indians of fault from their ALDS disaster, because that is undoubtedly what this was. It just helps explain why a team that made history one month can become history the next.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Cleveland Indians

Indians not ready to tackle uncertain future

Free agency, options could disrupt team's core for 2018
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- They stood together talking quietly in a hallway outside the Indians' clubhouse. Josh Tomlin, the longest-tenured player in the organization, leaned against a wall. Michael Brantley, often described as the heart and soul of the team, kept his hands inside the pockets of his sweatshirt.

There will undoubtedly be more conversations in the days and weeks to come, but the realization that this could be the end of the line for several members of Cleveland's core was sinking in. After a 5-2 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday night, sealing the Tribe's defeat in Game 5 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan, players like Brantley, Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce were faced with uncertain futures sooner than anticipated.

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CLEVELAND -- They stood together talking quietly in a hallway outside the Indians' clubhouse. Josh Tomlin, the longest-tenured player in the organization, leaned against a wall. Michael Brantley, often described as the heart and soul of the team, kept his hands inside the pockets of his sweatshirt.

There will undoubtedly be more conversations in the days and weeks to come, but the realization that this could be the end of the line for several members of Cleveland's core was sinking in. After a 5-2 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday night, sealing the Tribe's defeat in Game 5 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan, players like Brantley, Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce were faced with uncertain futures sooner than anticipated.

View Full Game Coverage

"I started a quest back in 2009. I want to finish it the right way," Brantley said. "I don't want to go out like this if it's my choice. It's not. I just look forward to hopefully being back here with this group of guys. I have amazing relationships with everybody in this locker room. Great teammates. Great team. I just look forward to being part of it for a long time."

:: ALDS schedule and coverage ::

Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations, made his way around the home clubhouse after Wednesday's loss, shaking the hands of his players. Antonetti, general manager Mike Chernoff and manager Terry Francona were hoping to avoid discussions about the 2018 roster until after the World Series. Instead, the Yanks are moving on and the offseason came early in Cleveland.

There will be a lot on the front office's plate. Relievers Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith will be free agents, along with veteran outfielder Austin Jackson. Tomlin also has a $3 million team option for 2018. The biggest decisions, though, will revolve around Brantley ($11 million team option or $1 million buyout), Santana (free agent) and Bruce (free agent).

"Oh boy," Francona said. "I don't know if I'm ready to even think about guys moving on. ... The game's still a little too raw to go into that, yet."

That did not stop such thoughts from seeping into the minds of the impacted players.

For the players with options, Cleveland will need to make a decision by three days after the conclusion of the World Series. For the free agents, if the Indians want to net Draft compensation, they will need to extend a one-year Qualifying Offer, which will be in the range of $18 million for next season. The player would then need to reject the offer and sign a contract of at least $50 million in order for the Tribe to get a pick between the first round and Competitive Balance Round A in next summer's MLB Draft.

While Bruce was surrounded by a large pack of reporters, Santana sat alone at his locker, scrolling through messages on his phone. Santana came to the Indians as a Minor Leaguer via a trade with the Dodgers in 2008. The switch-hitter began as a catcher and eventually became a reliable first baseman. He has logged at least 600 plate appearances in seven straight years with the Tribe and ranks fourth in club history in walks (726) and 11th in home runs (174).

"I don't know if I'll sleep tonight," Santana said. "I don't know. I don't know what's in my future. I'm hopeful that I can come back. This is my house. This is my family. I know everybody. Everybody knows me. So, we'll see. We'll see. Me and my family, we'll have to wait."

Tweet from @TheRealSlamtana: Ugh. Heart hurts. Wish we could have done more for you cleveland. We gave it our all.

Bruce -- acquired from the Mets in an August trade -- ended this season with 36 home runs, 101 RBIs and an .832 OPS. He is coming off a seven-year, $63 million contract, which included a $13 million salary this season. The right fielder made a big impact on the Indians over the final two months, immediately fit into the clubhouse's culture and quickly emerged as a veteran leader on and off the field for the club.

After the loss, Bruce was not ready to think about his future.

"I'm going to take some time," Bruce said. "There's not really any rush for me. Nothing really starts happening until after the World Series anyway. I've got a family that I need to be there for, internalize this and just get some rest. We'll see what happens."

Brantley's situation may be the most complicated of the three.

The two-time All-Star was an AL Most Valuable Player Award candidate as recently as 2014, but a variety of injuries cost him a significant amount of time over the past two seasons (101 games combined). Brantley has spent nine years with the Indians after being acquired as the player to be named later that completed the July 2008 trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers. In a cruel twist of fate, Sabathia helped the Yankees defeat the Indians on Wednesday night.

Brantley said it is hard to head into the offseason with so much uncertainty surrounding the team.

"Absolutely. They're your teammates. They're your brothers," Brantley said. "We have so many good baseball players, teammates and people in this locker room. It's going to be tough, but I love every one of these guys in here."

Tomlin, fighting back tears, agreed.

"This could be the last game you play with a group of guys you care about, that you enjoy, that you love," Tomlin said. "That's probably the hardest part of everything. You don't want it to end."

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.

Cleveland Indians

Shaw grateful for Cleveland fans' support

Reliever tosses two strong innings in Game 5, hopes to return next season
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- As Bryan Shaw walked off the mound and toward the dugout in the eighth inning of Wednesday night's 5-2 loss to the Yankees at Progressive Field, the Indians reliever received an uncharacteristic strong ovation from the home crowd.

"I heard cheers," Shaw quipped after the game. "I wasn't sure if it was for [closer Cody Allen] coming in or me leaving."

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CLEVELAND -- As Bryan Shaw walked off the mound and toward the dugout in the eighth inning of Wednesday night's 5-2 loss to the Yankees at Progressive Field, the Indians reliever received an uncharacteristic strong ovation from the home crowd.

"I heard cheers," Shaw quipped after the game. "I wasn't sure if it was for [closer Cody Allen] coming in or me leaving."

View Full Game Coverage

:: ALDS schedule and coverage ::

In what could have been his final appearance in an Indians uniform, Shaw -- who will be a free agent this offseason -- delivered two strong innings of relief to keep the Tribe's hopes alive in Game 5 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan. Although the Indians were unable to break through to pull out a series win in their home ballpark, Shaw was appreciative of the ovation he received from the Cleveland faithful.

"It was definitely nice to see that," Shaw said. "The fans that come to the games are behind us and cheer for us all game. Unfortunately, we couldn't get it done for them."

With the Indians trailing by a run, Shaw entered in the sixth inning in relief of Andrew Miller. With a runner on first, Shaw struck out pinch-hitter Chase Headley to end the minor threat. Shaw then went on to pitch 1 2/3 more scoreless frames in the loss, yielding one hit and striking out three before he was replaced by Allen.

Despite being one of baseball's top relief pitchers over the past five seasons with the Indians, Shaw has often gone underappreciated and has been criticized by Tribe fans and pundits alike. So much so, in fact, that Shaw has been booed on numerous occasions by Cleveland fans when he entered a game. Shaw said he has never let that affect him while on the mound, though.

"The fans that come to the game," he said, "[they] know the team and like baseball. They love this organization and they love each and every player that's out there. The fans are awesome here. They stand behind us."

In the eyes of manager Terry Francona, pitching coach Mickey Callaway and several of Shaw's teammates, the vitriol thrown at Shaw has been unwarranted over the years.

Since he joined the Indians in 2013, Shaw has appeared in at least 70 games in every season. In his five seasons in Cleveland, he has posted a 3.11 ERA in 358 2/3 innings. Shaw finished this season tied with Royals reliever Peter Moylan for most appearances in the Majors (79). The right-hander also led the AL in games in 2016 (75) and the Majors in '14 (80).

When asked if the postgame scene in the Indians' clubhouse was awkward for him given his expiring contract, Shaw chuckled before responding.

"No, not at all," he said. "I'm still here with this team until three days after the World Series ends, technically. I'm here with these guys. Obviously, we're going to come into the clubhouse tomorrow and hang out, talk with each other and stuff like that. I'm an Indian until they tell me I'm not."

After the heartbreaking loss to the Yanks, Shaw said his upcoming free agency is not on his mind. However, he noted that Cleveland is the place he wants to be nest season.

"I would obviously love to stay here in this 'pen," Shaw said. "We have a lot of great guys down here. We have a lot of good arms. The last five years that I've been here, we've had a great bullpen down there. So I would definitely love to stay here with this group of guys."

"Everyone we have on this team is fantastic," Shaw added. "They're going to be good for a while. So there's no reason why I wouldn't come back."

William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.

Cleveland Indians, Bryan Shaw

Judge determined to get on track vs. Astros

Yankees rookie was 1-for-20 with 16 K's vs. Indians
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- Aaron Judge has said he is not concerned by his growing strikeout totals, but as the Yankees head into the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World against the Astros on Friday, they hope the rookie slugger can recapture the form that he showed during his September to remember.

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CLEVELAND -- Aaron Judge has said he is not concerned by his growing strikeout totals, but as the Yankees head into the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World against the Astros on Friday, they hope the rookie slugger can recapture the form that he showed during his September to remember.

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Fed a steady diet of breaking balls and high heat from Indians hurlers, Judge was limited to just one hit in 20 at-bats during the AL Division Series presented by Doosan. His 16 strikeouts in the series, with four coming in Wednesday's 5-2 win in Game 5, established a Major League record for a single postseason series, eclipsing the previous mark of 13.

"I haven't been doing my job there at the top of the order, and my teammates came up big for me this series," Judge said. "Now it's time to regroup and get ready for the AL Championship [Series]."

:: ALDS schedule and coverage ::

Judge's one hit of the ALDS was a big one, a two-run double in the second inning of Game 4 that gave the Yanks a 5-0 lead at the time, effectively sending starter Trevor Bauer to an early exit.

While Judge walked four times against Cleveland pitching, he had higher hopes for his first postseason series. The previous mark of 13 strikeouts had been shared by the A's Brandon Moss (2013 ALDS), the Tigers' Austin Jackson (2013 ALDS) and the Cubs' Javier Baez (2016 World Series).

"He was going up against some amazing pitching," general manager Brian Cashman said. "Turn the page and now focus on Houston. Reggie [Jackson] always talked about, 'If you have the bat in your hand, you can change the story.' Thankfully, he'll have the bat in his hand for another series. He's one of the reasons we got this far, but it takes a village. Other people were able to pick it up and find a way to carry us through."

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Indians strike out Judge four times

The upcoming ALCS will feature a head-to-head comparison of the top two candidates for the American League MVP Award, with Judge on the same field as second baseman Jose Altuve.

"They're a tough squad," Judge said. "They've got a potent lineup all the way up and down. Great bullpen, great starters. It's going to be fun. It's a new challenge. We're excited for it."

The Yankees would be thrilled if the trip to Houston helps Judge reclaim the prowess he showed in the final month of the regular season, when he hit .311/.463/.889 with 15 homers and 32 RBIs in 27 games. Brett Gardner said that he expects Judge to bounce back.

"When the team wins and you're not doing well, you don't take it so hard," Gardner said. "He's got a good head on his shoulders and we all struggle from time to time. When the team wins, it doesn't matter so much. We'll be ready to go on Friday."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

Indians' exit shouldn't overshadow the journey

Plenty of great memories -- 102 wins, 22 in a row, historic pitching
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- The Indians made history with a 102-win regular season that included a 22-game winning streak. They needed a third win against the Yankees in October to keep their postseason hopes alive.

They couldn't stop the momentum the Yanks had built in the Bronx, and their hopes of another chance at the World Series ended early as a result. It was tough to find solace in the silence of a stunned clubhouse Wednesday night, but Andrew Miller thinks they'll find it soon.

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CLEVELAND -- The Indians made history with a 102-win regular season that included a 22-game winning streak. They needed a third win against the Yankees in October to keep their postseason hopes alive.

They couldn't stop the momentum the Yanks had built in the Bronx, and their hopes of another chance at the World Series ended early as a result. It was tough to find solace in the silence of a stunned clubhouse Wednesday night, but Andrew Miller thinks they'll find it soon.

View Full Game Coverage

:: ALDS schedule and coverage ::

"I think there are a lot of things that happened this year that are a lot of fun, things that we'll remember and things that pop up, what this team accomplished that is going to mean a lot down the road," Miller said after the 5-2 loss in Game 5 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan. "But right now, we just wanted to keep playing. We're not."

It's a reminder that nothing is guaranteed. Just because a team fell a run short, an inning shy of a World Series championship one year doesn't mean they'll be back in a World Series with a chance at redemption the next. To say the Indians needed just one more win doesn't account for how difficult those first 10 wins are to repeat.

At the same time, it shouldn't discount the journey to get there, something Miller hopes is appreciated when the pain eases.

"We'd love to win a World Series and do a parade through Cleveland," Miller said. "We saw that with the Cavs, the way they were embraced through their success. But I'd like to think that the team we've put out on the field since I've been here and even prior to that, since Tito has been here, that it's hopefully been a fun product to watch and people have enjoyed it."

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Miller fans five Yankees in relief

Or as manager Terry Francona put it, "It was an honor to go through this year with these guys. There's times it hurt, like tonight. But it's quite a group, and I feel like a better person for going through the year with these guys."

Not just the product, but the individuals behind it, provided memories in 2017. The Indians could find themselves with a two-time AL Cy Young Award winner in Corey Kluber when results are announced next month, thanks to one of the most dominant second-half stretches in recent history. His 1.62 ERA since returning from the disabled list on June 1 was the lowest in the Majors by nearly a run, topping Max Scherzer's 2.48 ERA in that same stretch. Kluber went 10-2 with a 1.81 ERA at Progressive Field for the season, the lowest home ERA by a Tribe starter since Gaylord Perry in 1972.

Behind Kluber, Jose Ramirez continued his meteoric rise, this time jumping from an underrated cog on a contending team to an All-Star who will likely receive AL MVP Award votes. His 91 extra-base hits rank second-most ever by a switch-hitter, including a league-best total of 56 doubles that just 18 other Major League players have reached in a season. Ramirez posted nine consecutive multihit games in June, the longest such streak by a Cleveland player since Roy Hughes in 1936.

Ramirez's offense was the standard for third basemen. Then, once Jason Kipnis went on the disabled list, he moved to second and kept it up. Ramirez's .957 OPS is the highest in Major League history for a player with at least 60 games at second and third base in the same season.

Video: CLE@SEA: Ramirez drills go-ahead solo home run in 6th

"We did things during the regular season that nobody can take away from us -- the 22 games, the way our staff pitched or the team played, everything we've done this year leading up to this point," reliever Bryan Shaw said. "Nobody can take that away from us. Obviously, it's going to take a little while to get over. Everything that we did, there's nothing to be upset about. We had a good season, 102 wins. Everybody played well. Everybody did their jobs. It was a lot of fun to go through it all."

It makes the early exit all the more painful, but the exit doesn't erase the journey.

"We love our team," Miller said. "The fact that guys in this clubhouse were able to win 22 in a row and win 102 for the regular season says a lot about the ability of this team. We think the ability of this team is to win the World Series. But there's no guarantees."

Jason Beck has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians

Yanks' ALDS comeback takes Girardi off hook

Veteran skipper relieved after costly decision in Game 2 loss
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- The closed-door meeting that saved the Yankees' postseason took place prior to Game 3 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan, as Joe Girardi gathered his club and confessed that he felt "horrible" about the events that had taken place in the sixth inning of a Game 2 loss that had his club down 0-2 in the best-of-five set.

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CLEVELAND -- The closed-door meeting that saved the Yankees' postseason took place prior to Game 3 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan, as Joe Girardi gathered his club and confessed that he felt "horrible" about the events that had taken place in the sixth inning of a Game 2 loss that had his club down 0-2 in the best-of-five set.

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:: ALDS schedule and coverage ::

There was no way to correct the non-challenge of Lonnie Chisenhall's hit-by-pitch, but Girardi had seen the Yankees overcome plenty of adversity in their 165 games to that point. Now Girardi was the one who needed to be picked up, and the players responded, taking their manager off the hook with three straight wins, culminating with a 5-2 victory over the Indians on Wednesday night in Game 5 that has New York back in the AL Championship Series presented by Camping World.

"I talked about just winning one game and how all year long that I believed in them from the day we left Spring Training, and I believe in them now," Girardi said. "You've always had good at-bats. ... You've never quit. Continue to have each other's back, and let's win one game."

Todd Frazier was the first player to speak up, shouting, "Let's go!" to lead the Yanks onto the field.

"This one's for Joe. I'll be honest with you," Frazier said. "He got a lot of criticism after that second game. We talked a lot, me and him, and I couldn't be happier for him. A lot of criticism went his way that shouldn't have, and we came together as a team for him. And this one's definitely for Joe."

Video: Frazier on winning series for Joe Girardi

Girardi told his players that he "screwed up" by not challenging the Chisenhall hit-by-pitch in Game 2, and a sold-out crowd at Yankee Stadium let him hear it, booing the manager soundly during introductions before Game 3.

"Things happen. Nobody's perfect," Didi Gregorius said. "Let that be in the past and focus on what's going on now, and that's basically what we're doing. We don't worry about what everybody says. We stayed focused. [Girardi] also talked to us and everything. That's the past. Now we focus on the now."

While Girardi had steeled himself for that eventuality, saying that he warned his wife and children that a Bronx cheer was likely heading his way, it did not make the experience any less painful.

"It's easy to look back and say, 'I wish I would have done something different,'" Brett Gardner said. "But at the time, things are moving so fast. It is what it is. We're moving on and we're excited about it."

Masahiro Tanaka's terrific effort and Greg Bird's clutch homer provided the salve, extending the series to Game 4.

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Girardi on Didi's offensive performance

"Joe's had our back all year, and we'll always have his back, through the good times and the bad times," Aaron Judge said.

When the Yankees knocked out Trevor Bauer in the second inning on their way to winning Game 4, forcing the ALDS back to Cleveland, Girardi began to envision what could be his potential redemption.

"It turns the page. The storyline changed," Yanks general manager Brian Cashman said. "Instead of the focus being on a mistake made that cost something, it's now in the past. The focus is on a team winning something rather than an individual issue that occurred in a series."

A decade earlier, Joe Torre's decision not to pull his Yankees off the field amid a swarm of Lake Erie midges had registered as the longtime skipper's greatest regret. For Girardi, Wednesday's victory in Game 5 downgraded the Chisenhall flap to just a footnote in what has otherwise been a largely successful managerial career.

"The difference between Friday and today is about as big as you can get," Girardi said. "I don't think, at any point in my career, that I felt worse than I did on Friday. As I expressed many times, it's the hurt for the other people that is so hard for me. So the emotions, I mean, these guys had my back and they fought and fought. And again, they beat a really, really good team."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees

Indians left to mull over questions after loss

Tribe drops sixth consecutive close-out game dating back to 2016 World Series
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- As the Yankees celebrated at the Progressive Field mound on Wednesday night, forming a mob scene in front of a stunned crowd, Jay Bruce looked on from the Indians' dugout. After a few moments, the outfielder turned, tossed his batting gloves to a fan and disappeared into a somber locker room.

For the 69th season in a row, the last page to the Tribe's fairy-tale script went missing.

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CLEVELAND -- As the Yankees celebrated at the Progressive Field mound on Wednesday night, forming a mob scene in front of a stunned crowd, Jay Bruce looked on from the Indians' dugout. After a few moments, the outfielder turned, tossed his batting gloves to a fan and disappeared into a somber locker room.

For the 69th season in a row, the last page to the Tribe's fairy-tale script went missing.

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In the immediate wake of the Indians' 5-2 loss to the Yanks, a defeat that dealt the final blow to Cleveland in the American League Division Series presented by Doosan, plenty of questions still lingered. The main one is this: When Tribe fans look back on this series, what will they cite as the catalyst for the collapse after taking a 2-0 lead in the series? The bottom line is that the Indians did not play like the club that cruised to AL's best record.

:: ALDS schedule and coverage ::

"I feel like it's an opportunity that's missed," Bruce said. "To be part of a team this talented with this much depth and this much ability to win games, there really wasn't a weak spot. Coming to the playoffs, you obviously want that. I think that our pitching is really what made us who we are. We just couldn't get the job done."

It felt similar to last fall, when the Indians grabbed a 3-1 lead in the World Series only to fall in seven games to the Cubs. After that final loss, though, there was still a sense of accomplishment by a team that defied the odds in the face of adversity. The clubhouse atmosphere had a different feel to it this time around. This was a 102-win team during the regular season that rattled off an AL-record 22 wins in a row between August and September. A silver lining was hard to identify for the players.

Down the hall in the manager's office, Terry Francona also had to live with the roster decisions that had a ripple effect throughout this best-of-five series. Cleveland has now lost six consecutive close-out games dating back to the World Series last year, and is 2-8 in such games under Francona since 2013. Prior to Game 3 of the ALDS in New York, where the Indians arrived at Yankee Stadium armed with a 2-0 series lead, Francona was asked about dealing with criticism.

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Kluber reacts to Tribe's ALDS defeat

"You do your homework, and you're prepared, and you make your decisions," Francona said. "And then, you know, after the game, you have to answer for it, which you're supposed to. If you don't have an answer, shame on you. And then you're confident enough in what you're doing and you move on. You can't rush to wake up to see how you're being perceived, because it's just not helpful."

Indians outfielder Michael Brantley, who has played under Francona for the past five seasons, reacted with a disgusted expression when asked if Francona was at fault at all for how this series unraveled.

"Absolutely not," Brantley said. "Everybody in this locker room has the utmost respect for Tito, including myself. He puts us in position to succeed every single day. That has nothing to do with him. Absolutely not. It's on us."

Bruce also responded angrily to such a notion.

"That's outrageous," Bruce said. "This guy's one of the most respected and decorated managers in the game. For people to question his moves, they must have all the answers. I can't imagine questioning it. This guy's the most prepared. He's confident, at ease. He's the most prepared manager I've ever played for, probably."

Tribe faces uncertain future

Francona was hit with public second-guessing when he named Trevor Bauer, not ace Corey Kluber, the starter for Game 1 of the ALDS. Bauer returned on short rest for Game 4, and while the Tribe's defense did him no favors, he lasted only 1 2/3 innings. Kluber came back on his normal schedule for Game 5, a key factor in the decision, and allowed three runs in 3 2/3 innings. Asked if Kluber was fighting an injury, Francona noted after the loss that Kluber was "fighting a lot" to be on the mound.

Kluber's short start marred by home runs

For the ALDS roster, Francona opted to go with Giovanny Urshela as his starting third baseman over Yandy Diaz (inactive) due to his defensive upside. Urshela committed two of the Indians' four errors in Game 4, and Cleveland's typically-sound defense made nine errors in five games. And late in Game 5, the only right-handed bats available to pinch hit vs. left-hander Aroldis Chapman were Yan Gomes and Erik Gonzalez.

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Urshela laces an RBI single to right

Brantley, who had three at-bats in the final two regular-season games after missing nearly two months with a right ankle issue, made the roster as a pinch-hitter. That move was exposed when slugger Edwin Encarnacion (right ankle injury in Game 2) sat out both games in New York and a rusty Brantley was forced into service as the team's DH.

The offense as a whole hit .171/.263/.287 with 18 runs (nine coming in Game 2) and 61 strikeouts. That included an 8-for-60 showing combined from Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez.

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Ramirez proud of team in defeat

Beyond the rotation decisions, there was also the move to keep bullpen regulars Dan Otero, Nick Goody and Zach McAllister off the roster in favor of having starters Mike Clevinger, Danny Salazar and Josh Tomlin available as relievers.

Early exit shouldn't overshadow Tribe's journey

"He believes in what he does and there's a rhyme and a reason," Bruce said of Francona. "And he has personalities around him that challenge his thinking. It's not just him throwing stuff together."

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Kipnis on disappointing ALDS result

Had the Indians emerged victorious in any of the last three games, Francona's decisions probably would not be placed under the microscope.

"It's easy to second-guess in hindsight," Kluber said. "If we would've won the series, people probably wouldn't question him. I don't think the guys in the clubhouse question him at all, and I think that's all he cares about."

This is not how anyone inside Cleveland's clubhouse saw this conclusion coming.

"Nobody wanted the season to be over," Francona said. "It doesn't wind down. It comes to a crashing halt. And nobody, myself included, was ready for it to be over."

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.

Cleveland Indians

Chapman, Robertson seal ALDS win

Relievers throws 4 2/3 scoreless frames in clincher over Indians
MLB.com

CLEVELAND-- Aroldis Chapman trotted out to the mound Wednesday night with a one-run lead and six outs standing between the Yankees and the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World. It was a gutsy move, to say the least, with relievers Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle available and Chapman having thrown more than one inning for a save just once in the regular season.

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CLEVELAND-- Aroldis Chapman trotted out to the mound Wednesday night with a one-run lead and six outs standing between the Yankees and the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World. It was a gutsy move, to say the least, with relievers Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle available and Chapman having thrown more than one inning for a save just once in the regular season.

• Dress for ALCS: Get Yankees' postseason gear

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:: ALDS schedule and coverage ::

But Yankees manager Joe Girardi's gamble paid off. For the second time in four days, Chapman went more than one inning to nail down the game, this one part of a decisive 5-2 win over the Indians in Game 5 of the AL Division Series presented by Doosan.

"I imagined there was going to be a chance that they would need me for two innings," Chapman said through his interpreter. "I prepared myself mentally and physically for that, for the job at hand."

Chapman fired two scoreless innings, striking out four Indians in a dominant performance that sealed the Yanks' passage to the ALCS. The flamethrowing closer combined with David Robertson to hold Cleveland hitless for the game's final 4 2/3 innings, allowing New York's offense enough time to break away.

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Robertson tosses scoreless relief outing

"We did what we were supposed to do, which is hold the lead," Robertson said. "It was tough tonight, they are a resilient team. You have to just try to not make mistakes against them. Chapman did an amazing job throwing two innings right there. He had to go through the heart of the lineup to end it.

"That's what he does. He's got electric stuff, and when you've got electric stuff, you can get through those innings."

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Robertson discusses crucial double play

Chapman needed 13 pitches to dispose of the Tribe in the eighth, ending the frame with a 102-mph fastball that sent Jason Kipnis down swinging. He then sat more than 30 minutes, as the Yankees scored twice on Brett Gardner's single, which capped a 12-pitch at-bat, in the ninth.

"I kept moving around the dugout," Chapman said. "I went down and threw a couple of balls to a net. That's what you've got to do, stay loose and stay warm."

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Girardi on Chapman's desire to win

Chapman kept bringing the heat in the bottom of the ninth. After a leadoff walk to Jose Ramirez, he struck out Edwin Encarnacion looking with a 101-mph fastball. After Carlos Santana then bounced into a force out, Chapman struck out Austin Jackson looking to seal the series.

"Chappy wants to win. Chappy's a winner, and that's why we went out and got him again, because we knew that he was really, really good at what he did," Girardi said. "And he has obviously pitched in the World Series [last year with the Cubs] and loves the competition. I mean, his innings were great this whole series."

Including the Yankees' AL Wild Card Game win over the Twins, Chapman has 13 strikeouts over 6 2/3 scoreless innings this postseason. On Wednesday, the flamethrowing lefty became the first reliever to record a save of at least two scoreless innings in a Division Series clincher since the Mets' Jeurys Familia in Game 5 of the 2015 National League Division Series. The Yanks will need Chapman and the rest of the bullpen to stay hot with the Astros' impressive bats up next.

"It's incredible. The best I've ever seen," Yankee starter CC Sabathia said of the bullpen. "We got four or five closers down there. We have a lot of confidence they're going to get the job done."

Brittany Ghiroli has worked for MLB.com since 2010.

New York Yankees, Aroldis Chapman

Gardner's patience pays off late for Yankees

Veteran's 12-pitch at-bat leads to two insurance runs in ALDS Game 5
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- Brett Gardner, the longest-tenured Yankee, has seemingly always embodied one of the best characteristics the team wants in a hitter -- working the count to grind out good at-bats.

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CLEVELAND -- Brett Gardner, the longest-tenured Yankee, has seemingly always embodied one of the best characteristics the team wants in a hitter -- working the count to grind out good at-bats.

Dress for ALCS: Get Yankees' postseason gear

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Wednesday was no different, as Gardner had one of the biggest at-bats -- and hits -- of New York's 5-2 win over the Indians in Game 5 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan.

Leading 3-2 in the ninth inning, Gardner worked a 12-pitch at-bat against All-Star closer Cody Allen, fouling off six pitches before slapping a single into right field that scored two important insurance runs for the Yankees and closer Aroldis Chapman, who sat for 30 minutes after pitching a scoreless eighth.

:: ALDS schedule and coverage ::

It was Gardner's second 12-pitch at-bat of the game.

"That's the kind of at-bat that gets you locked in," said Gardner, who has played 10 seasons for the Yanks. "I felt good at the plate today. Just trying to fight and get a pitch to hit. Fortunately, I was able to do that."

Seeing plenty of pitches has been a trademark of Gardner and the Yankees all year. Gardner ranked seventh in MLB among qualified hitters with 4.23 pitches per plate appearance during the regular season, while teammates Aaron Judge (4.41) and Todd Frazier (4.33) were first and fourth, respectively. New York's 3.98 mark ranked second only to Oakland (4.00).

Gardner worked a six-pitch at-bat in the third, scoring two batters later on Didi Gregorius's second home run.

Video: Extended Cut: Gardner's clutch at-bat and RBI single

But the real patience came in the fifth, when Gardner faced All-Star reliever Andrew Miller. After taking the first four pitches, he rattled off six fouls and took one more ball. Miller then struck out Gardner on a slider over the plate, but Gardner got Miller's pitch count up to 17 after just two batters.

"That's him," said left-hander CC Sabathia, who has played with Gardner since 2009. "That's what he does -- just fouling off pitches, getting a lot of pitches."

"He's a great player," said right-hander David Robertson, who played with Gardner during his first stint in New York from 2008-14. "He's a Yankee. He comes to win."

Gardner's battle with Allen came at a crucial time, as the Tribe had the heart of its order due up in the bottom of the ninth and Chapman had already pitched one inning. Gardner eventually found a pitch he liked -- an inside fastball.

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Gardner on getting lead, clutch hit

"I'm just going up against tough pitchers, man," Gardner said. "Just trying to grind out tough at-bats and trying to find a way to get on base, and let the big guy come up and do some damage behind me."

Gardner's single drove in one run, then right fielder Jay Bruce's errant throw plated another, pushing the Yanks' lead to 5-2.

"I think every team in baseball could use a Brett Gardner," Allen said. "I kind of laughed at him there after the 11th or 12th pitch. And then, he got me. I felt like I had nothing to be ashamed of there, he just flat-out beat me."

Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. Follow him on Twitter at @benweinrib.

New York Yankees, Brett Gardner