An early lead gave Cleveland hope and a last-ditch rally almost ended with a successful comeback, but the Yankees successfully held the Indians off for a 5-4 victory to complete the three-game sweep. The loss drops the Indians to .500 (37-37) as the White Sox opened up a 2.5-game lead in the AL Central.
Believe it or not, the Indians actually managed to score some runs against a good left-handed pitcher. After Carlos Santana reached on an Alex Rodriguez error to lead off the top of the second, Shelley Duncan ripped Andy Pettitte‘s 1-0 fastball to right field for an RBI double to put the Tribe up 1-0.
The Yankees responded with two runs in the fourth via Eric Chavez‘ two-run double, but the Indians bounced right back. Casey Kotchman‘s leadoff single literally knocked Pettitte out of the game as the ball deflected off his ankle; though Kotchman ended up being thrown out at the plate on a Michael Brantley ground ball, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis both delivered RBI singles off Clay Rapada to put Cleveland back on top 3-2.
The lead lasted until the bottom of sixth. Rodriguez led off with a double against Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez, and Cano followed with a two-run homer to put the Yankees back on top. Chavez’ RBI single against Vinnie Pestano in the eighth provided an insurance run as New York pulled ahead, 5-3.
But the Indians didn’t say die. A Lonnie Chisenhall single, a Shin-Soo Choo walk, and a Lou Marson base hit off of Yankees closer Rafael Soriano loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth. Johnny Damon struck out after an eight-pitch battle, but Brantley’s patience prevailed as he got Soriano to walk in a run. With the tying run just 90 feet away, Cabrera popped a lazy fly ball to left fielder Dewayne Wise as the Bombers escaped with a gut-wrenching 5-4 win.
The Good: The ninth-inning rally might not have come to much, but it was sure good to see. This marked the second game in a row in which the Indians fought it out until the end. Kudos for the Tribe for continuing to fight on.
At an individual level, Jason Kipnis (2-for-4 with an RBI) and Lou Marson (2-for-4 with a run scored) were Cleveland’s offensive MVPs. And while his capability has never really been in question, it was nice to see Joe Smith pitch a perfect seventh inning considering how shaky the Tribe’s long and middle relief corps have looked lately.
The Bad: Ubaldo Jimenez’ outing was a mixed bag. There were some positives—he struck out seven while allowing only four hits in six innings—but on the whole it was a rough start. The Yankees knocked Jimenez around for four runs (all earned) as he allowed a homer and four free passes. You could do a lot worse when you’re facing a great lineup in a hitter’s park, though.
The “Huh?”: Wednesday was supposed to be Shin-Soo Choo’s day off, but with the Indians up by one run and defensive liability Shelley Duncan playing left, Manny Acta decided to put Choo in right and shift Aaron Cunningham over to left.
The only problem: it was the sixth inning. It wasn’t the wrong move in that it made the Indians better (Choo is a better hitter than Duncan too), but given that Choo was supposed to rest it was way too early for a defensive replacement. It’s the same reason you shouldn’t call for a sacrifice bunt in the early innings—yes, it’s a close game now, but you don’t know that it will be a few innings later.
Interesting Tidbit: The Indians have now lost five games in a row for the first time in more than a year. The last instance was June 2-6, when they got swept in a four-game series with Texas before losing the opener in a set with the Twins.