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Tito forces Yanks to use Chapman for 5 outs

Tribe's skipper hopes outing could affect New York's 'pen in Game 4
MLB.com

NEW YORK -- While Indians manager Terry Francona is making marks on his lineup card and nervously gnawing on his gum wad, his mind is often working toward two primary goals: winning the game at hand and trying to gain an advantage in the one that follows. That was Francona's aim again in the eighth inning on Sunday night.

Francona's maneuvering in the latter stages of a 1-0 loss to the Yankees, who trimmed the Tribe's lead to 2-1 in the best-of-five American League Division Series presented by Doosan, did not swing the game's momentum how he hoped. What the manager did accomplish, however, was forcing the Yanks to hand the ball to closer Aroldis Chapman for what turned into an exhausting five-out save.

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NEW YORK -- While Indians manager Terry Francona is making marks on his lineup card and nervously gnawing on his gum wad, his mind is often working toward two primary goals: winning the game at hand and trying to gain an advantage in the one that follows. That was Francona's aim again in the eighth inning on Sunday night.

Francona's maneuvering in the latter stages of a 1-0 loss to the Yankees, who trimmed the Tribe's lead to 2-1 in the best-of-five American League Division Series presented by Doosan, did not swing the game's momentum how he hoped. What the manager did accomplish, however, was forcing the Yanks to hand the ball to closer Aroldis Chapman for what turned into an exhausting five-out save.

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:: ALDS schedule and coverage ::

Cleveland will keep the champagne on ice, and hope that this win for New York took a toll on Chapman.

"It didn't work out tonight," Indians relief ace Andrew Miller said. "But it might pay dividends later on."

Game 4 of the ALDS, featuring Tribe starter Trevor Bauer against Yankees righty Luis Severino, is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on Monday night, and will be aired on FS1.

During games in Cleveland, there is a fan at Progressive Field who shows up on occasion with a large poster that says, "Tito pushes all the right buttons." It has a cartoon rendering of Francona standing behind a series of red buttons for various situations. In reality, what Francona does is more akin to a chess match, though his battle of wits with Yanks manager Joe Girardi on Sunday took place in a deafening atmosphere in the Bronx.

In the top of the eighth, New York was clinging to its one-run advantage and Girardi sent right-hander setup man David Robertson to the mound in relief of Masahiro Tanaka. On the Indians' bench was the left-handed-hitting Lonnie Chisenhall -- Francona's pawn for this situation. The manager had a few options. He could use Chisenhall as a pinch-hitter for Austin Jackson (leading off), Roberto Perez (due up third) or Giovanny Urshela (due up fourth).

One more consideration for Francona at that moment was that slugger Edwin Encarnacion -- dealing with a right ankle injury -- was deemed unavailable. That robbed the manager of a potent bat for this type of game-changing decision-making.

From the visitors' dugout, Chisenhall was already thinking through the situation. He was anticipating hitting for Urshela, knowing utility man Erik Gonzalez could take over at third base in the ninth. Instead, Francona called upon Chisenhall to bat for Perez with one out and Michael Brantley at first base.

Chapman had been warming up since the start of the inning.

"I figured I would go with Robbie as long as I felt that I could," Girardi said. "When [Francona] brought in Chisenhall, it was Chapman's turn."

Chisenhall was ready to face Robertson, but he also understood he might just be a ploy.

"You go up there and you think they might make a move," Chisenhall said. "I kind of go out there knowing that. You see the other skipper up on the top step ready to make a move, too. It's part of the game. It's happened a few times. There's thought behind it."

Video: CLE@NYY Gm3: Chapman K's Urshela to preserve lead

When Girardi then summoned Chapman, Francona pulled Chisenhall and sent right-handed-hitting catcher Yan Gomes to the plate. Francona achieved his goal: getting Chapman into the game for a five-out-save scenario.

"One, you're trying to win," Francona said. "But two, I figured that once they go to Chapman, he has to get five outs. And if you're not going to win, second best is trying to make them use their bullpen while we don't. And that's kind of the strategy. Once Andrew gave up the run [in the seventh inning], we tried to get him out and keep the score right where it was."

The problem for the Tribe was that on this night, Chapman was firing on all cylinders.

"As good as I've seen him," Miller said.

Chapman struck out Gomes. He struck out Urshela. The last three pitches of the inning clocked in at 102 mph, 87 mph and 102 mph. Yankee Stadium shook.

In the ninth, Chapman began with a strikeout of Francisco Lindor on a 102-mph fastball. Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez followed with base hits, but that push proved to be a tease. Chapman struck out Jay Bruce and ended the game with a flyout off Carlos Santana's bat. The left-hander's final 12 pitches each registered at over 100 mph, and he averaged 101.5 mph on his fastball in the outing, according to Statcast™.

The Indians lost, but their hope is that there was a minor victory there at the end. They forced Chapman to throw 34 pitches in a high-stress situation. Maybe, just maybe, that can carry over in Cleveland's favor in Game 4 on Monday night.

"That's the goal," Miller said. "Tito preaches that grinding out at-bats and making guys work can pay off the next day, even if it doesn't tonight. That certainly can be true. We had some really good at-bats off him."

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.

 

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