Wild, unforgettable win sends Yanks to ALDS
There was no raucous, boozy celebration in the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field, as there was three years ago for a Yankees postseason triumph that seemingly transpired in a different universe. Instead, the Yankees bumped fists, acknowledging that their October is only getting started.
DJ LeMahieu ripped a tie-breaking single in the ninth inning and Aroldis Chapman nailed down the final outs of the longest nine-inning game ever played on a Major League diamond as the Yankees secured a wild 10-9 victory on Wednesday at Progressive Field, clinching a berth in the American League Division Series.
“What a game,” said Gary Sánchez, who homered and drove in three runs, including a game-tying ninth-inning sacrifice fly. “It’s even better because we were able to get the victory tonight. It was a battle.”
Though social distancing prevented the Yankees from celebrating as in 2017, they earned the opportunity to crack a few cold ones in private, participating in a wild contest that spanned four hours and 50 minutes -- not including 76 minutes of weather delays. The game was the longest of nine innings in either the regular season or postseason.
“I’m 47 years old; I’ve watched a lot of baseball,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I don’t know how you top that one -- the amount of back and forth, big moments and plays by different guys. With how long it was, I’m glad we don’t have to come back and play tomorrow.”
Boone’s squad will begin a best-of-five series against the Rays on Monday, to be played at San Diego’s Petco Park. New York dropped eight of 10 meetings with Tampa Bay this year and there is no love lost between the AL East rivals, as evidenced by a Sept. 1 clash in which the benches cleared at Yankee Stadium.
“You’ve got to understand that we have a rivalry,” Chapman said through a translator. “We’re trying to do the same thing, to win. Whatever happened, that’s in the past. We’ve got to put that aside and focus on the series ahead.”
Three innings before Sánchez’s sac fly off Indians closer Brad Hand, who faltered after going 16-for-16 in save opportunities during the regular season, the embattled catcher tracked the flight of a deep drive that carried over the wall for a go-ahead two-run homer.
Sánchez acknowledged that he’d been aided by the 21 mph gusts of wind that whipped the flags all night, but that seemed like a fair swap, considering the amount of barreled balls off his bat that found gloves during his frustrating campaign.
“The regular season is over,” Sánchez said. “Whatever happened in the regular season, at this point, it doesn’t matter. That’s the thing about the playoffs -- everybody starts from zero.”
Thoughts of a happy flight were shelved when Jonathan Loaisiga surrendered a two-run double to pinch-hitter Jordan Luplow in the seventh. Chapman surrendered Cesar Hernandez’s go-ahead hit in the eighth, though Gio Urshela started a fantastic double play from the seat of his pants to save at least one run and end the threat.
“He is a great third baseman,” Chapman said. “He saved the game there.”
Riding high after a 12-3 rout of likely AL Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber in Tuesday’s Game 1, the Yankees were down early, watching Cleveland hang a first-inning four-spot on right-hander Masahiro Tanaka around a 33-minute rain delay.
“You get the ball from the umpire, and it’s already soaking wet,” Tanaka said through a translator. “It was kind of a crazy situation.”
But New York slugged back. Giancarlo Stanton launched a second-inning homer and the Bombers chased Carlos Carrasco with a triple and two walks in the fourth. Urshela greeted James Karinchak with a grand slam, joining Gil McDougald (1951) and Tino Martinez (1998) as the only Yankees to hit a go-ahead postseason grand slam.
Stanton lifted a sacrifice fly in the fifth to extend the lead, but that didn’t hold. Cleveland placed two runners aboard in the bottom of the frame to chase Tanaka, who has wondered if he is pitching his final games in a Yankees uniform, and AL MVP candidate José Ramírez greeted Chad Green with a two-run double.
Asked what the sweep proved, Boone said he believes the Yankees have recaptured the attention of observers who may have discounted them entering the playoffs, as the club lost six of its final eight regular-season games before traveling to Cleveland.
“When we’re playing at our best, we can beat anybody,” Boone said. “But I would also caution that we haven’t done anything yet. This is just a stepping stone for us. We wanted to get to San Diego and be in that final group of eight to continue our quest.”