ALDS Game 5: New York Yankees shift momentum

By Jerry Beach, The Sports Xchange  |  Oct. 10, 2017 at 3:12 AM
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NEW YORK -- Before the first pitch Sunday night, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi was being fitted for the heaviest goat horns a Big Apple skipper had worn in decades and Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona appeared ready to burnish his Hall of Fame credentials.

A lot changed in 27 hours, and now a defining Game 5 awaits for the Yankees and the Indians.

The Yankees sent the American League Division Series to the limit Monday night with a 7-3 win over the Indians in front of a raucous sellout crowd of 47,316 at Yankee Stadium.

The lopsided win was the latest twist in a topsy-turvy series that will end Wednesday night in Cleveland, where the surging Yankees try to win their fourth elimination game in eight days and knock off an Indians team that spent the final six weeks of the season tearing up the record books.

"I think the momentum's on our side right now, (with) the wild-card game and coming back here for Game 3 being down 0-2," New York left fielder Brett Gardner said of the Yankees, who advanced to the ALDS by coming back from an early three-run deficit to beat the Minnesota Twins 8-4 in the AL wild-card game on Oct. 3.

"Our backs were against the wall, and it's obviously must-win. But feeling a lot better about the way things are going the last couple days."

Nobody more so than Girardi, whose bullpen management was impossible to question Monday. Ace right-hander Luis Severino tossed seven strong innings before handing the ball to Dellin Betances, who was pulled after walking the only two batters he faced.

Tommy Kahnle, who made 20 of his 31 regular-season appearances for New York in the seventh inning or earlier, came in and recorded the final six outs, five by strikeout.

"We've gotten it back to 2-2, and we got a shot now," Girardi said.

Such a scenario was difficult to imagine Friday, when a series of questionable moves by Girardi -- including pulling CC Sabathia after just 77 pitches and failing to ask for a replay on a questionable hit-by-pitch call just prior to Francisco Lindor's grand slam -- led to the Yankees blowing a five-run lead and falling 9-8 in 13 innings.

"When you go through what we went through on -- I don't even remember what day that was, Friday? -- it's as difficult a loss as I've had as a manager," Girardi said.

The defeat Monday doesn't rank that highly on the misery meter for Francona, but the three-time pennant-winning manager is in an unusual spot under the microscope after choosing to start Trevor Bauer on three days' rest Monday.

Bauer gave up four runs in 1 2/3 innings, though all the runs were unearned due to an error and a passed ball. Starting pitchers throwing on fewer than four days' rest have a 4.64 ERA in 13 playoff starts since 2012. Their teams are 6-7 in those games.

"I wasn't happy with the outcome, but we don't ever just, I don't know, throw stuff against the wall and hope it sticks," Francona said. "We try to have good reasons for it. I think we owe that to our players. I think we felt really good about Trevor starting.

"Losing's not a whole lot of fun, but we prepare pretty extensively, and then you live with the outcome."

Now an Indians team that ended the regular season on a 33-4 run -- a stretch that included an AL-record 22 straight wins -- faces the possibility of its special season ending in unceremonious fashion Wednesday, when Cleveland ace Corey Kluber pitches on regular rest against Sabathia.

"I wouldn't say the pressure is squarely on our shoulders -- it's a Game 5, do-or-die, pressure's on them too, lose and you go home," Indians outfielder/second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "We know had an opportunity to come here and put the series away. That's the part where you tip the cap to the Yankees for holding their home field. I think we're looking to do the same."

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