Bird is the word
Unlikely Yankee’s solo HR forces Indians to Game 4
NEW YORK — Good thing for Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees that Aaron Judge is 6-foot-7.
Judge prevented a home run to save Tanaka’s seven-inning gem, Greg Bird homered off relief ace Andrew Miller and New York edged the Cleveland Indians 1-0 Sunday night in Game 3 to extend their AL Division Series.
“He was brilliant,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said about Tanaka, who earned his first postseason win. “He gave us everything we needed.”
Aroldis Chapman got a five-out save as the Yankees avoided a three-game sweep by the defending AL champions. With two on in the ninth, Chapman struck out cleanup hitter and former Reds teammate Jay Bruce before Carlos Santana flied out to end it.
New York got a splendid performance from Tanaka in an old-fashioned October pitching duel with Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco. Tanaka received a big boost when Judge robbed Francisco Lindor of a two-run homer in the sixth.
Bird came through with the huge hit New York had to have when he connected against Miller in the seventh.
“I was really excited, I’m not going to lie,” said Bird, who was pumped up as he returned to the dugout.
Game 4 is Monday night at Yankee Stadium, with young ace Luis Severino scheduled to start for New York. Cleveland will go with Game 1 winner Trevor Bauer on three days’ rest, though there’s rain in the forecast.
“I consider this normal rest for me. I enjoy pitching on short (rest),” Bauer said. “If I could draw it out, personally, this is how I’d pitch every time.”
New York rebounded from a bruising, 13-inning loss Friday in Game 2 that led to heavy criticism of Girardi, booed Sunday night by the home crowd during pregame introductions.
“Not the first time. I kind of expected it,” Girardi said, acknowledging it’s no fun to hear catcalls. “I’ve seen them boo players and managers that have a lot more status than I do. So I prepared for it. I prepared my family for it.”
This was the Yankees’ first 1-0 postseason victory since Game 3 of their 2001 ALDS against Oakland, when Derek Jeter’s backhanded flip beat Jeremy Giambi to the plate for a crucial, memorable out.
Judge’s grab was the big defensive play Sunday. With a runner on first in a scoreless game, Lindor lofted a sixth-inning drive toward the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium. Judge backed up to the wall and barely needed to jump to extend his glove above the fence and make the catch, just to the right of the auxiliary scoreboard.
“Who better to reach up there and grab it than him?” Bird said.
The sellout crowd of 48,614 roared and Judge flashed a bright smile. It was the first time the rookie had robbed an opponent of a home run and the first time Lindor had ever been so denied, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Tanaka tipped his cap in appreciation and held Cleveland down until he was done. The right-hander, beaten 3-0 by Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros in the 2015 AL wild-card game, struck out seven, walked one and allowed three hits.
He whiffed three of his first four batters and was aided by two double plays.
“That’s the best performance that I’ve seen from him,” Girardi said.
The biggest test for Tanaka came in the fourth, after Jason Kipnis’ one-out triple glanced off the thumb of Judge’s glove in deep right field and rolled away.
Tanaka beared down and fanned No. 3 batter Jose Ramirez and Bruce, then turned to shout and slapped his mitt in excitement.
“I came here to pitch in these type of games,” Tanaka said through a translator.
Bruce struck out four times batting fourth in place of injured slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who sat out after leaving Game 2 with a sprained right ankle. Michael Brantley filled in for Encarnacion as the designated hitter and went 0 for 2 with a walk.
Tanaka delivered under pressure in his second career playoff start. After going 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA during an inconsistent season, he was pitching on eight days’ rest but looked plenty sharp.
In his previous outing, he struck out a career-high 15 over seven scoreless innings in his final regular-season start against Toronto.
Carrasco matched Tanaka into the sixth.
The right-hander, who was 11-2 with a 2.65 ERA in 17 road starts this season, gave up three hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings. Also helped by two double plays, he struck out seven and was lifted with the bases loaded.
Miller retired Starlin Castro on a popup to end the inning.
“That’s two of the better starting performers you’re going to see,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Cleveland had won six straight ALDS games, one shy of the 2009-11 Yankees for the longest such streak.
Chapman threw 28 of 34 pitches at 100 mph or more, topping out at 104 mph on a pitch Ramirez fouled off.
Indians: Encarnacion is day to day, Francona said. He did not expect the slugger to be available off the bench in this one. … Ramirez fouled a ball off his right leg in the fourth. He was checked by a trainer but stayed in the game. … Francona said he had his entire bullpen available after Friday’s 13-inning victory.
Yankees: Dellin Betances wasn’t used after throwing 35 pitches in two-plus innings and taking the loss in Game 2. Before the game, Girardi said he wasn’t sure if the big right-hander would be available.
Indians: Bauer struck out eight in 6 2/3 innings of two-hit ball during a 4-0 win in the series opener last Thursday. Josh Tomlin was initially penciled in to start a potential Game 4, but he tossed two hitless innings in relief Friday and was the Game 2 winner.
Yankees: Severino got only one out in the wild-card game against Minnesota last Tuesday, but New York’s lineup and bullpen bailed him out.