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After wild 9th, Yankees prevail in 10th

After thwarting early 5-run lead and late 1-run advantage, Hicks delivers game-winner in 10th
@castrovince
June 9, 2019

CLEVELAND -- After the large early lead had been erased, after the sure-handed shortstop had surprisingly booted a ball, after the kid who had been driven in overnight from Scranton was thrust into a save situation, the Yankees could finally celebrate Sunday. Thanks to Aaron Hicks’ go-ahead RBI double, the

CLEVELAND -- After the large early lead had been erased, after the sure-handed shortstop had surprisingly booted a ball, after the kid who had been driven in overnight from Scranton was thrust into a save situation, the Yankees could finally celebrate Sunday.

Thanks to Aaron Hicks’ go-ahead RBI double, the Yanks won, 7-6, in 10 innings at Progressive Field, avoiding a sweep at the hands of the Indians and sending them home happy for the Subway Series that begins Monday night. The Yankees blew a 5-0 advantage, as well as a ninth-inning advantage, and probably created more questions than they answered.

Box score

But a win is a win. And oh, how the Yankees needed this win.

“It was,” said manager Aaron Boone, “a different sort of game.”

This victory wasn’t easy, but, then again, what was easy for the Yankees in a week in which they routinely lost leads, had another important piece hit the shelf with Domingo Germán’s injured hip, saw their vaunted bullpen get battered and dropped five of seven?

Before this one went off the rails, the Yankees enjoyed a two-out eruption against Indians starter Shane Bieber in the second. A two-run, slump-breaking homer from Brett Gardner, who had been 0-for-22 and had gone viral on Saturday when his heaved helmet had bounced back to smack him in the bottom lip, made it 2-0. Two more runners reached to set up a DJ LeMahieu RBI single, and the Yankees loaded the bases to set up a two-run double from Luke Voit.

Just like that, it was 5-0, and the Yankees, who were going with a bullpen day with Masahiro Tanaka out on paternity leave, had chased Bieber to turn it into an unexpected ‘pen day for the Indians, too.

“It looked like it was going to be an easy one,” reliever Adam Ottavino said. “That wasn’t the case.”

No, it wasn’t.

In the sixth, Tommy Kahnle arrived for a rare rough outing in an otherwise splendid 2019. For the first time in his career, Kahnle yielded two homers in a game. He served them up to Leonys Martin (solo) and Mike Freeman (two-run shot), who had hit just one homer in his big league career and was only in the game because Jason Kipnis was yanked with an iffy hip. Suddenly, it was a 5-4 game.

The Indians tied it in the seventh, when Ottavino fell behind 3-0 to Jake Bauers, who had the green light on the next pitch and smacked it 434 feet to dead center.

That fit an unfortunate pattern for the ‘pen, which has now given up 21 earned runs in its past 23 1/3 innings. But while some might be quick to cite overwork as the culprit in that calamity, Ottavino aptly pointed out that both he and Kahnle entered this game having not worked in three days.

“There’s nothing wrong with the bullpen,” Ottavino said. “That was probably Mike Freeman’s best swing of his career off Kahnle there for that oppo homer. I gave up a 3-0 homer. Home runs are how good pitchers give up runs. No walks in there, really. It was just a couple good swings by them.”

In the ninth, the Yankees loaded the bases off Adam Cimber with one out, and Clint Frazier delivered the sacrifice fly to center that allowed Voit to easily tag up to make it 6-5.

Aroldis Chapman was one out away from the save with runners at first and second. He got what could have been the game-ending ground ball from Francisco Lindor, and it was headed for Didi Gregorius, who had entered for defensive purposes in just his third appearance since his return from Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow.

“If I had a nickel for every time we root for them to hit it to Didi,” said Boone, “I’d have a lot of nickels.”

But this grounder turned up like a bad penny, allowing Jose Ramirez to score from second on the play.

“I tried to get an easy backhand setup, but it took a quick hop straight to my knee and then went to the outfield,” Gregorius said. “It was the worst feeling I could have.”

Because Chapman struck out Oscar Mercado for the last out of the ninth, the Yankees were in position to recover in the 10th. Cameron Maybin doubled off Oliver Pérez with one out, and Hicks brought him home with a sharp line drive to left-center with two outs.

Left-hander Stephen Tarpley, who had arrived in Cleveland in the middle of the night after a car service transported him on the six-hour drive from Scranton, was able to close out an eventful and necessary victory for the Yanks.

“We had to fight for this one,” Hicks said. “These are games you need throughout a season to show you have a fight.”

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