×

Yankees Complete Comeback

  • New York Yankees' Didi Gregorius points to the dugout after hitting a two-run home run off Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber during the third inning of Game 5 of a baseball American League Division Series, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

  • New York Yankees' Didi Gregorius, right, is congratulated by Brett Gardner after Gregorius hit a two-run home run off Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber during the third inning of Game 5 of a baseball American League Division Series, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Cleveland. Gardner scored on the play. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

  • New York Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman delivers during the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game 5 of a baseball American League Division Series, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

  • New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi watches from the dugout during the fifth inning of Game 5 of the baseball team's American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

  • New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia, right, talks with catcher Gary Sanchez during the fifth inning of Game 5 of the team's baseball American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

  • Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona watches in the fifth inning of Game 5 of the baseball team's American League Division Series against the New York Yankees, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

  • Cleveland Indians' Edwin Encarnacion reacts after striking out against New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia during the fourth inning of Game 5 of a baseball American League Division Series, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Phil Long)

  • Cleveland Indians' Roberto Perez hits an RBI single off New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia during the fifth inning of Game 5 of a baseball American League Division Series, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)



AP Sports Writer
Thursday, October 12, 2017

Cleveland — Didi Gregorius, following in the October footprints left by Derek Jeter, homered twice off Corey Kluber as the New York Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians, 5-2, in Game 5 on Wednesday night to complete their comeback from a 2-0 deficit in the Division Series and dethrone the AL champions.

These bend-but-don’t-break Yankees staved off elimination for the fourth time in this postseason and advanced to play the Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series starting on Friday at Minute Maid Park.

The AL West champion Astros, led by 5-foot-6 second-base dynamo and MVP candidate Jose Altuve, went 5-2 against the wild-card winners this season.

After winning twice in New York, the Yankees — with little offensive help from rookie star Aaron Judge — came into Progressive Field and finished off the Indians, who won 102 games during the regular season, ripped off a historic 22-game streak and were favored to get back to the World Series after losing in seven games a year ago to the Chicago Cubs.

Cleveland’s Series drought turns 70 next year — baseball’s longest dry spell.

The Indians closed to 3-2 in the fifth against starter CC Sabathia before David Robertson pitched 2⅔ hitless innings for the win. Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, who faced Cleveland in last year’s spine-tingling World Series and signed an $86 million free agent contract in December, worked two innings for the save.

Chapman went to the mound with a three-run lead in the ninth after Brett Gardner battled Cody Allen for 12 pitches before hitting an RBI single, with New York’s fifth run scoring when Todd Frazier raced home on right fielder Jay Bruce’s throwing error.

Gardner’s gritty at-bat was symbolic of these Yankees. They wouldn’t give in.

When Austin Jackson was called out on strikes to end it, the Yankees rushed to the mound to celebrate with a wide-eyed Chapman.

These baby Bronx Bombers became the 10th team to overcome a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-five playoff series. New York also did it in 2001, rallying to beat Oakland — a series remembered for Jeter’s backhand flip to home plate.

Gregorius, who took over at shortstop following Jeter’s retirement after the 2014 season, hit a solo homer in the first off Kluber and added a two-run shot in the third off Cleveland’s ace, who didn’t look like himself during either start in this series.

One win shy of a Series title last year, the Indians had only one goal in mind in 2017.

They came up short again, and have now lost six consecutive games with a chance to clinch a postseason series dating to last year’s World Series, when they squandered a 3-1 lead to the Chicago Cubs.

Cleveland is the first team in history to blow a two-game series lead in consecutive postseasons.

Everything was set up for the Indians: Kluber on the mound, Game 5 at home, sensational setup man Andrew Miller rested.

The Yankees, though, wouldn’t be denied. They battled back from a 3-0 deficit in the first inning of their wild-card game against Minnesota and then had to overcome a crushing loss in Game 2, when manager Joe Girardi’s decision not to challenge a hit batter, drew heavy criticism and possibly cost New York during in a 9-8 loss in 13 innings.

But these young Yankees, who are ahead of schedule to be contenders, displayed pinstriped pride.

“This team has never stopped fighting and never stopped believing,” Girardi said before Game 5. “That’s the mark of a very good team. They know how to persevere and continue to grind out everything, whether it’s an at-bat or it’s on the other side, you’re facing a batter, how you grind it out.”

The Yankees did it without much help from Judge, who struck out four times in Game 5, and went 1 for 20 (.050) in the series with 16 strikeouts.

But the 6-foot-7 rookie might have saved New York’s season in Game 3, when he reached above the right-field wall to rob Francisco Lindor of a two-run homer in a 1-0 win.