Yankees win to finish series comeback

MILESTONES::New York became the 10th team to rally from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-five series, while the Indians’ World Series drought is to extend to 70 years

AP, CLEVELAND, Ohio

Fri, Oct 13, 2017 - Page 16

These young Yankees were on Wednesday night unshaken, resilient and as tough as the city they represent. The baby Bronx Bombers have grown up fast.

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

The bend-but-do-not-break Yankees, way ahead of schedule, staved off elimination for the fourth time in this post-season and advanced to play the Astros in the AL Championship Series starting tonight at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.

With a blend of young stars and older veterans coming up big, the Yankees rocked Cleveland and bailed out manager Joe Girardi, who failed to challenge a key call in a Game 2 loss that threatened to sabotage New York’s season.

“These guys had my back and they fought and fought,” Girardi said. “They beat a really good team. What those guys did for me, I’ll never forget it.”

The Yankees went 2-5 against AL West champions Houston, led by 168cm-tall dynamo and Most Valuable Player candidate Jose Altuve. However, none of that matters now to this group of New Yorkers.

After winning twice at home, and after Girardi said he “screwed up” and felt horrible about it, the Yankees — with little offensive help from rookie star Aaron Judge — went to Progressive Field and finished off the Indians, who won 102 games during the regular season, ripped off a historic 22-game winning streak and were favored to get back to the World Series after losing the seven-game series a year ago to the Chicago Cubs.

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

“Nobody wanted the season to be over,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “It doesn’t wind down, it comes to a crashing halt. It’s disappointing. We felt good about ourselves. We made it harder to win, especially in the last two games.”

The Indians closed to 3-2 in the fifth against starter C.C. Sabathia before David Robertson pitched 2-2/3 hitless innings for the win. Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, who faced Cleveland in last year’s spine-tingling World Series and signed an US$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 Todd Frazier scoring New York’s fifth run when he raced home on right fielder Jay Bruce’s throwing error.

Gardner’s gritty at-bat was symbolic of these Yankees — they would not give in.

“We can win a lot of different ways,” Gardner said.

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

The Yankees 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.

Cleveland are the first team in history to blow a two-game series lead in consecutive post-seasons.

These Yankees displayed pinstriped pride and pulled Girardi off the hook.

“I had a hole in my heart for about five or six days,” he said.

It is healed now.