How did the Indians — who won Game 2 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan, 9-8, on Yan Gomes‘ ground-ball single down the third-base line in the bottom of the 13th — come back from a seemingly suffocating five-run hole in the sixth after one of their best hitters, Edwin Encarnacion, exited in the first inning with what looked like an awful right ankle injury, and after their ace, Corey Kluber, was uncharacteristically socked?
|Gm 1||Oct. 5||CLE 4, NYY 0||Watch|
|Gm 2||Oct. 6||CLE 9, NYY 8 (13)||Watch|
|Gm 3||Oct. 8||7:30 p.m.||CLE @ NYY||FS1|
|*Gm 4||Oct. 9||7 p.m.||CLE @ NYY||FS1|
|*Gm 5||Oct. 11||8 p.m.||NYY @ CLE||FS1|
How did the Yankees nearly escape the unfortunate and possibly inescapable 0-2 series hole in which they now reside by clobbering Kluber, the presumed AL Cy Young Award winner who had posted a 1.62 ERA in his past 23 starts, a 1.15 ERA in his past five starts against New York, a 1.81 ERA in 16 starts at Progressive Field and a 1.83 ERA in last year’s postseason?
How did Kluber get outpitched by the Yanks’ erstwhile ace CC Sabathia, a 37-year-old with diminished stuff and a bad right knee who had contemplated retirement as recently as August yet delivered 5 1/3 effective innings?
How did the Indians, with one swing of the bat from their inimitably energetic young shortstop Francisco Lindor, turn a lopsided loss into a late-inning thriller against one of the best relievers in the Majors in Chad Green?
How did the eighth inning, which was famously Joba Chamberlain and the Yankees’ “bug a boo” in this building in Game 2 of the ALDS a decade ago, again come to bite the Yanks — this time thanks to an epic game-tying homer from Jay Bruce?
And why will this game live on in the hearts, minds and either late-night sweats or goosebumpy glories of those who played it and those who witnessed it?
Because it happened in October.
Not that baseball ever rates as especially easy to project, and not that a game with these exact same plot points wouldn’t mount a spot in our memories even if it took place on a less atmospheric weeknight in late April. But strike up these scenes in front of a packed park that’s living, dying, moaning, groaning, expressing their exhilaration and exasperation with rousing roars one moment and stunned silence the next, and you’ve got… say it with me now…
“It was,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said, “an honor to be a part of this game.”
One city. One team.
— AL Central champs! (@Indians) October 7, 2017
This was October baseball taken to its kinetic, frenetic, ludicrous, humorous, exhausting, accosting, arresting and cresting extremes. There were so many moments — too many to touch on here — that will cause the Indians to pinch themselves and the Yankees to kick themselves. Because in October, you can’t have the glory without the gory.
For the sake of our sanity, let’s just jump right to the sixth, when it all seemed settled with the Yankees ahead, 8-3, and Encarnacion and his sprained and twisted ankle on his way to an MRI. Green hit Lonnie Chisenhall with a pitch to load ’em up. Except he wasn’t hit. The ball hit the knob of Chisenhall’s bat and went into the glove of catcher Gary Sanchez, so it should have been an inning-ending out. But Yanks skipper Joe Girardi, who was already going to face postgame scrutiny for yanking Sabathia earlier in the inning, didn’t challenge it.
“By the time we got the super slow-mo [replay],” Girardi said, “we are beyond a minute. It was way too late. They tell us we have the 30 seconds … And probably being the catcher I am, I think about rhythm for the pitcher and not taking him out of his rhythm.”
If Green’s rhythm wasn’t already rattled by the Tribe’s presence on the basepaths, it was completely erased by what Lindor did one pitch later. He swung at a 1-0 slider and sent it arcing high in the sky, smacking the right-field foul pole two-thirds of the way up and setting off a soiree.
“Just stay fair,” Lindor thought. “I started blowing on it a little bit.”
Two innings later, it was Bruce, the Indians’ $3.7 million gift from owner Paul Dolan, who keeps on giving. David Robertson‘s sick stuff had looked untouchable for the previous four outs, but Bruce touched and torched a 3-1 cutter for the leadoff shot into the bleacher seats that knotted it up at 8.
There was other stuff. Crazy stuff.
Austin Jackson reached on a two-base error when Aroldis Chapman‘s wayward throw to first was touched by a credentialed photographer in the pit. Didn’t affect the outcome, but yeah, it was one of those nights. Todd Frazier was given the gift of a two-base error when replacement third baseman Erik Gonzalez airmailed his throw above that same photographer, only see it regifted when pinch-runner Ronald Torreyes wandered off the bag and got picked off second base by Gomes’ almost inhuman 1.88-second pop time in the 11th. The defensive play of the game.
A couple six-out outings from the closers and a shutdown showing from starter-turned-reliever Josh Tomlin later, it was the bottom of the 13th, when Jackson drew a leadoff walk off Dellin Betances and stole second. Gomes pulled back a bunt attempt and fought off Betances for a fittingly fatiguing 10-pitch at-bat. Foul, foul, foul, foul, foul. And then, finally, the finisher.
“That’s what you call October baseball right there,” Gomes said.
Darn right. Even sans midges, this was the game with everything you could want and nothing you could expect. It was a “crowd stands up for the Lindor slam in the sixth then literally does not sit down for nearly three hours” kinda night.
It was October. And it was unforgettable.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.