CLEVELAND — First, Yan Gomes did it with his glove. Then he did it with the bat.
The catcher’s heroics in extra innings Friday night put the Cleveland Indians on the brink of advancing to the American League Championship Series, as they rallied from a five-run deficit to beat the New York Yankees 9-8 in 13 innings.
The Indians took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 series, which will resume Sunday night at Yankee Stadium following a travel day Saturday.
While the Indians had plenty of heroes during the five-hour, eight-minute marathon, none stood out more than Gomes, a player who often gets overlooked on a talented roster.
After the Indians knotted the score 8-8 despite falling behind by five runs in the fifth inning, the Yankees appeared poised to grab the lead and maybe the game in the 11th. Todd Frazier led off the inning and reached second base on a throwing error by rookie third baseman Erik Gonzalez.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi had pint-sized utility player Ronald Torreyes pinch run for Frazier. Gomez promptly picked Torreyes off with an outstanding pop time of 1.7 seconds. Second base umpire Brian O’Nora called Torreyes safe, but the call was overturned by video review. That killed a potential rally and preserved the tie.
“That’s a play (shortstop Francisco) Lindor and I always look to do,” Gomes said. “Any time somebody fake bunts or something, we’re always trying to pick behind. Lindor seemed like he was going to be pretty close, and then when you see them getting the challenge call going, you’re getting pretty excited about it. It was a big play in that inning. Glad we got it done.”
Two innings later, Gomes got it done again when he drove in the winning run against losing pitcher Dellin Betances after Austin Jackson hit a leadoff single and stole second base. Gomes followed with a hard grounder past the 5-foot-8 Torreyes, who had replaced Frazier at third base, and down the left-field line.
Gomes said his focus in that at-bat was to advance Jackson to third base. Gomes originally tried to bunt, but that didn’t turn out to be a good strategy against the hard-throwing Betances.
“I pulled back the one time I tried to bunt and I was like, there’s no chance I’m going to be able to bunt this guy right now,” Gomes said. “So, I was just trying to put the bat on the ball and try to get him over any way I could. The pitches were there. I felt like I was kind of on it, so I was able to see it and it just happened to go my way today.”
Gomes, though, was just one of many players who helped the Indians overcome a terrible three innings to start the game.
Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion left at the end of the first with a sprained right ankle. An MRI showed no structural damage, and he is listed as day-to-day. But it seems certain he will miss at least a few games.
Ace right-hander Corey Kluber was clobbered for six runs in 2 2/3 innings, giving up a two-run home run to Gary Sanchez in the first inning and a three-run shot to Aaron Hicks in the third that gave the Yankees a 6-3 lead. New York stretched the advantage to five runs in the fifth when Greg Bird connected for a two-run home run off Mike Clevinger.
However, Lindor got the Indians back into the game with a grand slam in the sixth inning off Chad Green that made it a one-run game. Jay Bruce’s solo shot off David Robertson in the eighth made it 8-8 and was his second homer in as many games.
Then the Indians bullpen took over as Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, Joe Smith, Cody Allen and Josh Tomlin combined to finish the game with 8 2/3 scoreless innings. Tomlin is slated to be the Indians’ Game 4 starter Monday night at Yankee Stadium, if it is necessary.
“We don’t believe in one or two guys,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We believe in our entire team and it took an entire team to win that game. There were some many things that happened that, if we don’t do one of them, we probably lose.
“It was an honor to be a part of this game. You can see why I talk about our guys the way I do.”