CLEVELAND — At one level in the eighth inning of the epic Game 2 of the wild-card collection between the Yankees and the Indians, Yankees third baseman Gio Urshela regarded again at the clock on the large scoreboard at Progressive Field and noticed that it was approaching 1 a.m. Thursday.
“Oh, this is a long game,” Urshela stated to himself in shock.
If not for that glimpse, Urshela wouldn’t have identified that a sport that was presupposed to have begun on Wednesday at 7 p.m. had bled into the wee hours of the subsequent day. The sport’s many twists and turns — and there have been extra to return after Urshela checked the time — had captured his consideration and captivated these watching at house, presumably with white knuckles.
When nearer Aroldis Chapman struck out Austin Hedges to finish the sport at 1:14 a.m., the Yankees had not solely defeated the Indians, 10-9, to comb the best-of-three wild-card collection and advance to an American League division collection, that they had additionally completed the longest nine-inning sport, both in the postseason or the common season, in main league historical past in four hours 50 minutes. That didn’t embody two delays totaling one other 76 minutes.
Extra innings weren’t wanted to jam all of it in: a nonrain delay, an precise rain delay, moist and windy situations, 38 gamers used, 388 pitches thrown, 19 walks, 5 lead modifications, 4 ties, many feisty plate appearances, a number of game-changing hits or performs and a lot unpredictability.
Trailing by a run with one out in the ninth inning, Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez knotted the rating with a sacrifice fly off Brad Hand, the Indians’ standout nearer, who entered the sport with out a single blown save all 12 months. Then infielder D.J. LeMahieu, the Yankees’ greatest hitter, supplied the profitable run by chopping a run-scoring single up the center.
“I’m 47 years old,” stated Yankees Manager Aaron Boone, the son of a former main league catcher and supervisor, Bob Boone. “I’ve watched a lot of baseball. I’ve watched a lot of my dad’s playoff games, and I’ve been in some really big games. I don’t know how you top that one.”
That was fairly the reward from Boone contemplating that as a participant he hit one of the most memorable home runs in baseball history: a walk-off blast in extra innings against the rival Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2003 A.L. Championship Series that sent the Yankees to the World Series. The stakes were much different for Boone and the Yankees for Wednesday’s game, but the emotional roller coaster was head-spinning nonetheless.
“It kind of had that feeling that we weren’t going to be denied and they weren’t going to lose,” he said. “They just kept scratching and crawling, and Cleveland kept answering, and we were finally able to outlast them.”
The Yankees will now face their fierce division rival, the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays, in a best-of-five division series slated to begin on Oct. 5 at a neutral site, Petco Park, in San Diego. The Rays, who won the A.L. East crown this year, and the Yankees aren’t particularly fond of each other: Their rivalry has been littered with terse words, bench-clearing incidents and hit batters.
The Yankees and Indians did not need any of those fireworks; their game provided plenty. The night, though, began under inauspicious circumstances. The game was delayed for 43 minutes before the first pitch for “incoming rain” that did not come. But then the game was started, and in the first inning, heavy rain did arrive, and Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka coughed up a run.
Boone called the delays “a little bit frustrating” and “not really fair” to Tanaka, who said through an interpreter that the conditions were “extremely bad.” He added: “You get the ball from the umpire and it’s already soaking wet. You’re not really able to throw.”
Even after the teams returned from a 33-minute rain delay in the bottom of the first, the drizzle continued for some time, and Tanaka, normally a postseason stalwart, surrendered three more runs. But the Yankees’ lineup, the best in the American League, fought back against the Indians’ pitching staff, also the best in the league, thanks, in large part, to Urshela, who spent the first nine years of his professional career in the Indians organization.
In the fourth inning, Urshela clobbered a grand slam off the Indians’ James Karinchak, a young flamethrower who emerged as one of the best relievers in baseball this year, giving the Yankees a 5-4 lead. He flipped his bat to the side after watching the ball soar into the left-field seats, and pointed at the Yankees’ dugout as he rounded the bases.
Of course, much more was to come. After the Indians tied the score at 6-6 in the fifth inning off reliever Chad Green and Tanaka, the Yankees’ lineup roared back with help from an unlikely source. Sanchez, who has struggled this year and did not start Game 1 on Tuesday, skied a go-ahead, two-run home run that sneaked over the right-field fence in the sixth.
“I thought it was a fly ball to right,” he said, adding later: “In the regular season, I’ve had good swings and hit the ball hard, but no home runs. And on this one, I didn’t hit it like I can and the ball carried. That’s baseball.”
The lead changes didn’t end there. When Yankees reliever Zack Britton got into trouble by walking two in the bottom of the seventh inning, Boone called on Jonathan Loaisiga, who surrendered a two-run double to pinch-hitter Jordan Luplow that knotted the score at 8-8.
When Loaisiga ran into more problems in the eighth inning, Boone summoned Chapman, whose first pitch was blooped into the outfield by second baseman Cesar Hernandez to give the Indians a 9-8 advantage. The inning could have been worse if not for Urshela: He started a threat-ending double play by diving to his left and throwing to second base while seated on the ground.
“That saved the game,” Chapman said.
But the craziness continued into the final frame. Hand pitched little like himself. Giancarlo Stanton walked, and Gleyber Torres and Urshela each singled to load the bases, setting the stage for Sanchez and LeMahieu.
After the final out, Boone embraced his coaches in the dugout. With Champagne and beer celebrations prohibited because of the coronavirus protocols, Boone addressed the team in the clubhouse, and the team’s championship belt for the player of the game was awarded to Urshela.
“That was one of the best games I’ve ever played in my life,” he said.
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