|Credit: Andrew Schwartz-New York Daily News|
Yankees 2, Indians 1…
Chase Headley was the unlikely hero on Saturday to help power the Yankees over the Indians. With Jordan Montgomery and the bullpen holding the Indians in check after a top of the wall home run by Carlos Santana in the 2nd inning, Headley broke the 1-1 tie with his solo shot off former Yankee Zach McAllister in the top of the 8th. He may have only been 1-for-4 in the game, but the placement of the single hit could not have been better.
|Credit: Phil Long-AP|
For the first time in what seems like a long time, the Yankees scored the first run of the game. Brett Gardner led off with a walk. After Chase Headley struck out (What? The bum! Throw him out of the game! Oh well, may as well keep him around to see if he can do something later on…), Aaron Judge singled to left, moving Gardy to second. Didi Gregorius cranked a fly ball that hit the wall just below the yellow line in center, scoring Gardy. So close (thisclose) to a three-run bomb…the Yanks had to settle for the single run as neither Gary Sanchez nor Jacoby Ellsbury could bring Judge home from third.
The Indian tied the game in the bottom of the 2nd when Carlos Santana hit a fly ball off the top of the wall in left center. There was momentary confusion over whether it was a double or a home run (even Santana stopped at second), but the third base umpire called it a home run. Replay showed it hit the yellow line (maybe just a couple inches higher than Didi’s double in the first)…the Yankees did not challenge.
From there, it became a pitching duel between Jordan Montgomery and Cleveland’s Danny Salazar although the Yankees blinked first when Manager Joe Girardi pulled Monty after five innings and 65 pitches. The luxury of a powerful, rested bullpen.
The Yankees had a chance to get some runs in the top of the 6th inning when Didi Gregorius hit a one-out double to left. Gary Sanchez walked on four pitches, but Jacoby Ellsbury hit into a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play ($153 million doesn’t go as far as it used to). David Robertson took over for Monty in the bottom of the inning and was able to get out of it with no runs despite a couple of hits, including a lead off single by Francisco Lindor that went over Aaron Judge’s head. I do have to give credit to the $153 million man for a great catch that prevented another hit.
In Salazar’s final inning, the 7th, he mowed down the Yankees, striking out the side. His final line was Corey Kluber-worthy…four hits, a lone run, a trio of walks, and a dozen strikeouts.
|Credit: Chuck Crow-The Plain Dealer|
Fortunately, with Salazar having thrown 112 pitches, the Indians brought in Zach McAllister to start the 8th. Brett Gardner was the first batter but he struck out. Chase Headley strolled to the plate and gave the Yankees the 2-1 lead with his sixth homer of the year, a high fly ball to the third or fourth row of the stands in right center.
|Credit: Chuck Crow-The Plain Dealer|
After David Robertson had pitched two scoreless innings, Dellin Betances shut down the Indians in the 8th, including two by strikeout. From there, it was up to Aroldis Chapman. As the YES Network announcers pointed out, the last time Chapman had appeared on the mound at Progressive Field was the 7th game of the World Series when he gave up the game-tying home run to Rajai Davis but was the eventual winner for the Chicago Cubs. Michael Brantley led off with a single to right, but that was all the Indians could do against Chapman this time as the Yankees finally took a game in the series. Credit Brett Gardner for a great leaping catch to record the first out and preventing a walk-off homer by Jose Ramirez. Ronald Torreyes also flashed the leather with a brilliant diving catch to rob Edwin Encarnacion.
The Boston Red Sox were winners (4-1 over the Chicago White Sox), so the Yankees (58-51) did not make any ground on the Sox. They remain 3 games back. The Tampa Bay Rays lost to the Milwaukee Brewers, 3-0, pushing them 2 1/2 games behind the Yanks. The Baltimore Orioles are still 4 1/2 games back of the Yankees after their 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
Despite only five innings, it was a solid effort by Jordan Montgomery who is fighting for his rotation spot. He held the Indians to three hits, one run, and struck out seven. He did not walk any batters as he was very effective at getting the Indians to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone.
|Credit: Getty Images|
All three relievers used by the Indians had Yankee connections. Of course, we’ve already mentioned Zach McAllister who was the losing pitcher. McAllister was traded to the Indians in 2010 for the long-forgotten Austin Kearns. Tyler Olson pitched for the Yankees in 2016 after he was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the trade that originally brought Ronald Torreyes to the Yankees for third baseman Rob Segedin (both Olson and Torreyes were subsequently designated for assignment and claimed by other teams although Toe eventually worked his way back after a brief stay with the Angels organization). The final Indians reliever was Nick Goody, who was designated for assignment last off-season and subsequently dealt to the Tribe to clear space for the free agent signing of Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees acquired righty Yoiber Marquina, who is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery, in the Goody trade.
After an ugly defensive performance on Thursday, this was an exemplary defensive effort by the Yankees. The key to the game was the defense…with a little help from Headley’s bat.
|Credit: Phil Long-AP|
Odds & Ends…
It sounds like Matt Holliday is head for the DL. As great as he was in the first half, he has been a liability in the second half. The latest ailment is the result of tweaking his back with a swing on Friday night, but it provides a good excuse to get Holliday off the active roster as he was struggling mightily up to that point.
|Credit: Mike Stobe-Getty Images|
As expected, the Yankees have, in fact, placed Holliday on the DL. 1B Garrett Cooper has been recalled from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. I thought maybe we’d see Aaron Hicks or Tyler Austin but neither one is quite ready yet (both on rehab assignments).
It’s not what Yankee fans want to hear, but with their latest win over the New York Mets, the Los Angeles Dodgers (78-32) are on pace for 115 wins. They’ve won 43 of their last 50 games, something no other team has done since 1912. Assuming they get Clayton Kershaw back before the post-season, their starting rotation of Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood and Rich Hill has the potential of being a very dominant group. This probably represents the first real threat to the Yankees record of 125 total wins in 1998 since the Seattle Mariners won 116 games in the 2001 regular season but succumbed to the Yankees in the ALCS to finish with 120 total wins.
|Credit: Julie Jacobson-AP|
Have a great Sunday! Hopefully the Yankees can finally figure out Indians starting pitching today with Luis Severino pitching for the series split. Go Yankees!