CLEVELAND — The last time the Yankees left Progressive Field they were nine innings away from winter. When they departed the same facility early Thursday morning they were on the way to the ALCS.
Until Aroldis Chapman struck out Austin Jackson looking to close a 5-2 win over the Indians in Game 5 of the ALDS on Wednesday night there had been just six teams to overcome a 0-2 deficit in Division Series play.
Now, there are seven.
“Nobody expected us to do anything. It’s amazing, these guys never give up. We were down, 0-2, and came back,’’ said Didi Gregorius, who homered twice off Indians ace Corey Kluber to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the third inning.
The Yankees’ first postseason series victory since 2012 when they beat the Orioles in the ALDS sends the Yankees to the ALCS where they will face the Astros in the best-of-seven series. Game 1 is set for Friday in Houston.
The win went to David Robertson who provided 2 ²/₃ innings of scoreless relief, but the victory falls under the heading of team win.
CC Sabathia was dynamite for four innings only to give up four straight singles and two runs in the fifth and was lifted for Robertson who needed two pitches to get Francisco Lindor to hit into an inning-ending double play that Gregorius made a nifty play on. Aroldis Chapman worked the eighth and ninth innings, allowed one base runner and whiffed four. Brett Gardner had a 12 pitch at-bat in the ninth when he delivered a two-out, RBI single that upped the lead to 4-2. Todd Frazier’s heads-up base-running carried him home when right fielder Jay Bruce’s casual throw from right field got loose in the infield. That gave Chapman a three-run lead to work the ninth with.
“Everybody played a part in this. I don’t think there isn’t anyone that didn’t play a part in this,’’ Joe Girardi said. “That’s the greatest thing about it. And the fight in these guys, so proud of them.’’
As for using Chapman for two innings, the gas-throwing closer was prepared for it.
“I knew it was an important game, and I was ready for that,’’ said Chapman, who posted his second save of the series.
In addition to sending the Yankees to the ALCS for the first time since 2012 when they were swept by the Tigers, the victory took Girardi off the hook for not challenging a key play that cost the Yankees a win in Game 2.
Girardi held a quick meeting before Game 3 and told his club to win one game and that he owned the gaffe.
“He talked to us for a little bit. He admitted to it,’’ Gregorius said. “It just shows everybody is united. That’s in the past.’’
Not many gave the Yankees a chance to get into the postseason when the season started. The rotation was suspect and there was too much youth. Then after beating the Twins in the AL wild-card game the Yankees were huge underdogs against the Indians. Now, the Astros are up and the Yankees are welcoming the daunting challenge.
“They are another great team, but if we want to get to where we want to you have to beat a great team,’’ Greg Bird said. “You have to beat great teams with great pitching and great lineups.’’
Wednesday night the Yankees were great on the mound and at the plate when it was needed. They will be big underdogs to the Astros who have the home-field advantage.
Yet, after watching them send the Indians into winter a lot earlier than the defending AL champs expected, betting against the Yankees might not be the best move.
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