Didi Gregorius helps Yankees extend season to ALCS

Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire

Didi Gregorius joined the ranks of New York Yankees postseason heroes on Wednesday night, homering twice off potential American League Cy Young award favorite Corey Kluber.

Despite all of that damage coming in the first three innings, the Yankees shortstop’s work — and steady pitching from CC Sabathia and the New York relief corps — did enough to stun the Tribe in a 5-2 victory to finish off a 3-2 ALDS for the Yanks.

The Yankees erased a 2-0 series deficit to end the Indians’ hopes at defending their AL pennant. For the first time since 2013, the AL Central won’t represent the league in the World Series. It will be the Yankees or Houston Astros, and their ALCS matchup begins Friday.

This marks the Yankees’ first ALCS appearance since 2012, and they will be bidding to trek to their first World Series since 2009. The Yankees spoiled what would have been the first ALCS matchup between 100-win teams since the 1977 Yankees-Royals series by continuing to stifle the potent Indians lineup.

Gregorius smashed a solo shot off Kluber in the first inning and continued the Cleveland ace’s October swoon by hammering a two-run home run off of him in the third. Kluber finished his postseason having allowed nine earned runs in fewer than six innings. That’s the most in a two-start span Kluber gave up all season.

Two Tribe errors — by left fielder and former Yankee Austin Jackson and shortstop Francisco Lindor — helped the Yankees plate two vital insurance runs in the ninth. Brett Gardner‘s RBI single ended up scoring Aaron Hicks and Todd Frazier.

Sabathia managed to turn back the clock against his former team, with the 37-year-old left-hander delivering vintage work when out there. Sabathia finished with nine strikeouts and two earned runs permitted in 4.1 frames. David Robertson then went 2.2 scoreless, coaxing a double play to escape a Sabathia-created jam in the fifth, to set up Aroldis Chapman’s two-out save.

The Indians’ bats largely went silent this series, one that ended a dominant season for the defending AL champs. Yankees pitchers struck out 16 Indians in Game 5. The teams combined for a playoff-record 31 Wednesday. The Indians, whose 102 wins were the most in an Indians season since their 1954 iteration, have now lost their past seven elimination games dating back to Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.

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