CLEVELAND (AP) – They’ve won this season in almost every way imaginable: comebacks, walk-offs, blowouts, nail-biters.
No. 104 for the Cleveland Indians topped them all.
Yan Gomes singled home Austin Jackson from second base with none out in the 13th inning as Cleveland rallied from five runs down to stun the New York Yankees 9-8 on Friday and snatch a 2-0 lead in the AL Division Series.
Despite an atrocious start by ace Corey Kluber and losing slugger Edwin Encarnacion with a severely sprained ankle in the first, the Indians, with some help from a call that went their way, continued a charmed season growing more and more special by the day.
“The tendency of this team is to never give up,” Kluber said. “Even when we were down 8-3, we didn’t believe the game was over. We never feel like we’re out of a game.”
Jackson drew a leadoff walk in the 13th from Dellin Betances and stole second. Gomes went to a full count before pulling his bouncer just inside the third-base bag, easily scoring Jackson and touching off another one of those wild celebrations inside Progressive Field, where the Indians have been so good while running away with their division and winning 22 straight.
As Jackson sprinted home, Cleveland’s players poured out of the dugout and mobbed Gomes at the conclusion of a wild, 5-hour, 8-minute thriller that featured 14 pitchers and a call that may haunt Yankees manager Joe Girardi for months.
“We just were supposed to win,” said Indians outfielder Jay Bruce, who hit a game-tying homer in the eighth. “No words, honestly. I’m speechless.”
Francisco Lindor hit a grand slam in the sixth to rally Cleveland, which will try for a sweep in Game 3 Sunday at Yankee Stadium. Carlos Carrasco will start for the Indians against Masahiro Tanaka, who will try to extend New York’s season.
The Yankees had their chances late, but they stranded the go-ahead run at third in the ninth and 10th – and had pinch-runner Ronald Torreyes picked off second in the 11th by Gomes from the behind the plate.
Josh Tomlin, who had been scheduled to start later in the series, pitched two perfect innings for the win as Francona ran out of relievers in a game started by his best pitcher.
Aaron Hicks hit a three-run homer off Kluber and Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird hit two-run shots for the Yankees, who may have caught a bad break before Lindor’s homer.
New York’s Aaron Judge went 0 for 3 and is hitless in seven at-bats in the series with five strikeouts.
The Yankees lost consecutive games for the first time since they were swept at home in a three-game series by the Indians from Aug. 28-30. Now, they need to sweep three in a row from Cleveland.
Down 8-3, facing New York’s vaunted bullpen, the Indians came back.
New York starter CC Sabathia was lifted with one on and one out in the sixth for Chad Green, another one of the Yankees’ flame-throwers who got an out before Gomes doubled. Green came inside and Lonnie Chisenhall was awarded first by plate umpire Dan Iassogna on a hit by pitch.
TV replays showed the ball slightly change direction – it appeared to hit the knob of Chisenhall’s bat.
Girardi said there wasn’t enough evidence within 30 seconds to justify a challenge. He said the team later saw a slow-motion replay suggesting he should’ve contested the call, but it was too late.
“There was nothing that told us he was not hit by the pitch,” Girardi said.
New York catcher Gary Sanchez said he heard something, but wasn’t sure what. Sanchez caught the pitch on a fly – it would’ve been strike three if it had been ruled a foul tip – and immediately pointed to the Yankees dugout, indicating they should consider challenging the call.
Girardi nodded and held up a finger, asking for time to make a decision.
“I didn’t think it hit him, because he never reacted,” Sanchez said through a translator. “He stood there. But it’s just stuff that happens in the game.”
Lindor then stepped in and hit a towering shot off the inside of the right-field foul pole to make it 8-7. Before he left the batter’s box, Lindor gave his shot some help.
“As soon as I hit it, I knew it had a chance of going out,” Lindor said. “Then after a couple of steps, I was like, ‘No, don’t go foul, please. Just stay fair.’ I started blowing on it a little bit. As soon as it went out, it was just a lot of emotions.
As Lindor rounded the bases with Cleveland’s first postseason slam since Jim Thome in 1999, Progressive Field shook the way it did last November when Rajai Davis hit a two-run homer in eighth inning of Game 7 off Aroldis Chapman, then with the Cubs and now closing for the Yankees.
Bruce, who has done everything since coming over in an August trade, led off the eighth with his homer to left off reliever David Robertson, who pitched 3 1-3 scoreless innings and earned the win in the wild-card game over Minnesota.
Five innings later, the Indians finally broke the tie. They matched the longest postseason game in Cleveland history – Tony Pena’s homer in the 13th beat Boston in Game 1 of the 1995 ALDS.
Kluber wasn’t himself. Not even close.
The right-hander, who led the AL in wins, ERA and intimidation, didn’t get out of the third inning as Francona pulled him after allowing Hicks’ three-run homer.
It was the shortest outing this season for Kluber, and as he slowly walked off the mound, Cleveland’s stunned crowd gave him a polite ovation and several teammates approached him to offer consolation.
“I threw too many balls,” Kluber said. “And when I’d throw strikes, they were right over the plate.”
After rolling his ankle, Encarnacion stayed on the ground and rolled in the infield dirt in obvious pain while waiting for medical attention. He was helped to his feet and had to be assisted off the field.
Francona said an MRI showed a sprain and that Encarnacion, who hit 38 homers with 107 RBIs, is day to day.
Sidelined for Cleveland’s deep postseason run in 2016, Michael Brantley is along for the ride this year and the plan – before Encarnacion got hurt – was for the All-Star to start Game 3 in left.
He replaced Encarnacion in the second and went 0 for 5.
Carrasco went 11-3 with a 2.65 ERA in 17 road starts. Tanaka, who struck out a career-high 15 in his last start, will be making his second postseason start for the Yankees. He lost the wild-card game in 2015.
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