Didi Gregorius 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.
Fourth time this postseason these Yankees staved off elimination advanced to play the Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series starting on Friday at Minute Maid Park.
Speaking of the AL West champion Astros, led by 5ft 6in 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 title drought turns 70 next year – baseball’s longest dry spell.
Now that the Indians have closed to 3-2 in the fifth against starter CC Sabathia before David Robertson pitched a hitless spell for the win. Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, who faced Cleveland in last year’s spine-tingling World Series and signed an $86m 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.
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.