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 Friday at Minute Maid Park.
“It’s just our time,” starter CC Sabathia said.
The AL West champion Astros, led by 5-foot-6 dynamo and MVP candidate Jose Altuve, went 5-2 against the wild-card winners this season.
After winning twice in New York, manager Joe Girardi and 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 winning 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 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 $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.
“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. Girardi broke into a huge smile and hugged his coaches.
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.
NATIONALS 5, CUBS 0
Stephen Strasburg gave Washington everything he had, and it was more than enough.
So much for all those questions about heart and character.
Strasburg shook off an illness and pitched seven dominant innings, Michael A. Taylor hit a late grand slam and the Nationals beat the Chicago Cubs 5-0 on Wednesday to send their NL Division Series to a decisive Game 5.
“I just focused on one pitch at a time and going as long as I could,” Strasburg said.
Moments after Sean Doolittle closed out Strasburg’s first career playoff win, the focus shifted to the final game of the series in Washington on Thursday night. Kyle Hendricks starts for the World Series champion Cubs after throwing seven sharp innings in a 3-0 victory over Strasburg in Game 1.
Washington manager Dusty Baker was non-committal when asked about his starter, with Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark the most likely candidates.
“You know, whoever it is, I hope they pitch like Stras did today,” Baker said.