New York Yankees

How did Yankees shock Indians and come back from the dead?

New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino sprays sparkling wine in the locker room the Yankees defeated the Cleveland Indians 5-2 in Game 5 of a baseball American League Division Series, early Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, in Cleveland. The Yankees advanced to the ALCS. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
(AP Photo/David Dermer)

“The Indians blew a 2-0 lead,” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but the New York Yankees will take it.

Just like they took the American League Division Series back from Cleveland, the AL’s best team in 2017. The Tribe won the first two games at home thanks to a gem from Trevor Bauer and inaction from Yankees manager Joe Girardi, but New York matched them back in the Bronx. Behind key performances from Masahiro Tanaka, Greg Bird and Luis Severino, the Yankees evened things up.

If momentum felt like it was on New York’s side entering a decisive Game 5 in Ohio, it certainly looked that way on the field.

Cy Young Award favorite Corey Kluber struggled for his third straight postseason start, allowing a pair of home runs to Didi Gregorius. Meanwhile, CC Sabathia, pitching where it all began, dealt for the better part of 4.1 innings, exiting with a 3-2 lead.

It was enough for the relief tandem of David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman — they combined for 3.2 scoreless innings and six strikeouts — but a feisty Brett Gardner at-bat tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth. Just like that, a once improbable comeback was complete with a 5-2 victory.

Now the Yankees will face the Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series. Lined up for Game 1 on Friday in Houston for the Astros is Dallas Keuchel, an ace they’ve struggled against in the past.

Before we start worrying about that, though, here are a few thoughts on a thrilling finish to a thrilling series.

Didi Double Dutch

Remember when Yankees fans were upset the team parted with Shane Greene to acquire Gregorius? Remember when they were ready to send him packing after two weeks in the Bronx, convinced he couldn’t replace Derek Jeter?

It’s laughable how quick people were to judge the shortstop. That said, no one could’ve seen him becoming the middle of the order threat he is now. Kluber didn’t see it coming Wednesday, as the knight belted two jacks off the hurler. Gregorius now has three homers in elimination games this October.

A Poetic Performance From CC

The gas tank emptied in a hurry, but before it did, Sabathia looked like the ace that used to call Cleveland home. He gave New York two gutsy performances this series, providing just enough for Girardi to get to his bullpen.

On Wednesday, he became the first pitcher in baseball history to strike out nine batters despite tossing fewer than five innings.

Brett Gardner: Grinder

The Yankees didn’t need that ninth inning at-bat from Gardner, but boy, it was a beauty. The longest-tenured Yankees player battled for 12 pitches before finally ripping a single. With the help of an error and some heads-up baserunning, the hit plated two and provided the Yankees with some welcomed insurance.

Fleet of Foot Frazier

Todd Frazier was the second runner to score after Gardner’s single, showing some aggression on the basepaths. While far from fast, that wasn’t the first time the third baseman was full speed ahead in the series. Frazier’s running was an overlooked but important part of New York’s comeback against the Indians.

Chapman Cruises Though 2

Anytime Chapman is asked for more than an inning, it’s a risk. On Wednesday, he was asked for a full two.

With Yankees fans’ hearts surely thumping out of their chests, the highest-paid closer in baseball delivered. Chapman allowed just one baserunner while striking out four. As good as he was, the fireballer’s velocity was a little light. Girardi and the Yankees should be mindful of that as they prepare for Houston.

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