Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains. For the Yankees and Cleveland in Game Two of their Wild Card matchup, all three things happened.
On the way to a 10-9 win by the Yankees, there were two rain delays and questions about why the game started when it did and whether or not it should’ve been played at all. But play they did in a marathon, back-and-forth game that saw the Yankees advance to the ALDS.
Indeed those rain-soaked questions arose early for the Yankees as Masahiro Tanaka got off to an incredibly rough start. It was clear the rain was messing with him as his command and control were absolutely all over the place, leading to a four run inning for Cleveland, right off the literal and metaphorical bat. Before the game was delayed a second time, he gave up back-to-back doubles to Cesar Hernandez and Jose Ramirez to get Cleveland on the board. Any thoughts of a reset after the rain delay were quickly washed away.
After getting Carlos Santana out, he fell behind Franmil Reyes, eventually walked him, then gave up a two-run double to Josh Naylor followed by a rocket on the ground to Roberto Perez that took a bad hop, ate up Gleyber Torres at short, and plated a fourth run for the home side. Tanaka looked about as bad as possible in his interrupted first inning.
Luckily for him, the Yankees started a comeback in the second when Giancarlo Stanton took Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco deep to right field for a solo homer, his second in as many at bats at the time.
After two relatively uneventful innings in which both Tanaka and Carrasco seemed to settle in, the fireworks started for the Bombers in the fourth inning. First, Aaron Hicks tripled with Delino Deshields, Jr. badly misread Hicks’ ball and it turned into a triple. Luke Voit and Stanton then worked walks, forcing Sandy Alomar to pull Carrasco and bring in James Karinchak, his fireballing reliever, to put out the flames. At first, it looked like he just might do that. Despite the righty being a bit all over the place, Yankee third baseman Gio Urshela did not look comfortable at the plate….until….
Urshela blasted Karinchak’s full count offering into left center for a go-ahead grand slam to put the Yankees up 5-4, capitalizing on Deshields’ mistake, Carrasco’s sudden wildness, and Karinchak’s poor command and control.
To the surprise of many, Masahiro Tanaka came back out for the bottom of the inning and handled things, including a great glove flip play on a Deshields attempted bunt.
In the fifth, the Yankees added a run on a Stanton sac fly, but failed to add more when Voit was thrown out between third and home on a grounder back to the pitcher. That would loom large as Cleveland struck back in the bottom of the fifth.
A trifecta of bad things allowed Cleveland to tie the game. First, Aaron Boone tried to squeeze a bit more out of Masahiro Tanaka, which he should not have done. Tanaka put the first two hitters on base and that led to the second bad thing: a poorly executed curveball by reliever Chad Green. Jose Ramirez again made his presence felt, knocking a double down the right field line that tied the game…thanks to the third bad thing. DJ LeMahieu made a poor throw to Gary Sanchez, who skied up to get the ball and almost tagged the tying runner out, but, alas, it was not to be. For the third time, the game began again.
The tie didn’t last long, as Gary Sanchez took advantage of a meatball for what seems like the first time all year, and hit one out ot right to put the Yankees up 8-6.
Green came out for the bottom of the sixth, but exited after putting two runners on against the bottom of the Cleveland order. Lucky for him, Zack Britton bailed him out with–what else?–a groundball double play.
But Britton’s heroics were short-lived as he walked two batters with two outs in the seventh. This prompted Aaron Boone to bring in Jonathan Loaisiga to face surprise pinch hitter Jordan Luplow, who came in for the red hot Josh Naylor. Loaisiga hung him a pitch and Luplow didn’t miss, tattooing it over Aaron Hicks’ head and off the center field wall to tie the game for Cleveland.
Despite two walks by LeMahieu and Aaron Judge–their best plate appearances of the night–and a botched double play by Cesar Hernandez, Aaron Boone’s decision to lift Luke voit for Tyler Wade came back to bite the Yankees as it forced Clint Frazier to pinch hit in the cleanup spot; he had a bad at bat, striking out on three pitches, stranding runners on the corners.
In the bottom of the eighth, Boone repeated his Tanaka mistake from the fifth by allowing Johnny Lasagna to stay in the game and walk the first two hitters before calling on Arolids Chapman, who probably should’ve started the inning anyway. But one batter later, Cesar Hernandez pushed a bloop single into shallow left, bringing Delino Deshields, Jr. home to give Cleveland a 9-8 lead. The damage could’ve been worse if not for a spectacular double play started by Gio Urshela, who dove and threw from a seated position to start a 5-4-3 double play that bailed the Yankees out of further damage and gave them a fighting chance in the ninth.
In said ninth inning, Giancarlo Stanton took a five pitch walk against Cleveland closer Brad Hand, replaced by Mike Tauchman on first. Frustratingly, he did not attempt a steal despite Hand’s slow delivery, but he moved to second anyway on a wild, defensive flick of a swing by Gio Urshela that resulted in a single up the middle to keep the Yankees’ line moving. Despite a strong at bat, Brett Gardner–following an infield single/maybe an error by Hand off the bat of Glebyer Torres–struck out to bring up Gary Sanchez, who tied the game with a sac fly to center. And then up came LeMahieu and, what do you know? It’s French for game-winning hit. An on 0-2 pitch, he poked the ball up the middle and scored Urshela from second to give the Yankees the lead and chase Hand from the game.
Aaron Judge walked against new reliever Cal Quantrill, but Aaron Hicks whiffed and couldn’t tack on either.
In the ninth, Arolids Chapman came back out for his second inning of work and promptly whiffed Franmil Reyes on three pitches then got Luplow to ground out to Torres, Gary Sanchez made things interesting by whiffing on Chapman’s strikeout pitch to pinch hitter Oscar Mercado allowing him to reach base. But, despite a momentarily scary long foul ball by another pinch hitter–Austin Hedges–Chapman picked up his catcher with a strikeout.
That was….a game. It made my blood pressure rise. It took a year or three off my life. This is the first recap of a Yankee game I’ve done since the three grand slam game in 2011 and, uh, I sure know how to pick ’em, huh? All that matters, though, is the Yankees have two games down and ten to go for number 28. Next up–the Rays on Monday in San Diego.