Edwin Encarnacion got hurt, Corey Kluber looked hurt, but the Yankees ARE hurt.
Flashing that 22-game winning streak pedigree, the Indians in a preposterous, laborious, calamitous, glorious day at the office, won a game Friday that they had no business winning.
That it was Game 2 of the American League Division Series and gave the Indians a 2-0 lead over the Yankees in the best-of-five series made it all the sweeter.
It was the kind of victory they make movies about or sing songs about. Trailing 8-3 in the sixth inning, the Indians won 9-8 in 13.
It about drove Tito over the top.
“The understatement of the year would be to say there was a lot going on in that game,” said Terry Francona, scoutmaster of the Franconamen. “There was so many things that happened, that if we don’t do one of them, we probably lose.”
They won because they did them all. They won because they are the best team in the American League, and every once in a while it’s nice to remind everyone of that fact.
But most of all, they won it because of sheer want-to.
You don’t win 22 games in a row by accident. The Indians didn’t win this one by accident, but they almost lost it by accident.
Think about this: the Indians nearly ran out of relievers — in a game started by Corey Kluber.
Kluber only got eight of the 39 outs the Indians needed to win, but it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because the Indians out-bullpen-ed the Yankees, who have the best bullpen this side of the Indians.
Indians relievers held New York scoreless on three hits over the last eight innings — a Yankee team that led the league in home runs and was second in runs scored.
Josh Tomlin, the eighth and final Indians reliever, was supposed to start Game 4, but instead won Game 2 by pitching the last two innings, retiring all six batters he faced, striking out three of them.
That’s the way it works with the now 104-win Indians.
Winners win. It’s what they do.
“It was an honor to be a part of this game,” Scoutmaster Francona said. “I mean, you can see why, when I talk about our guys, why I do. I mean, going through that with them, the ups and down both. Shoot, seeing Joe Smith come off the mound so fired up that he was in a game like that, you know, happy to compete, embracing it. It was an honor to be a part of that game.”
It was exhausting to watch it.
Trailing 2-0, tied 2-2, leading 3-2, trailing 6-3, trailing 8-3, trailing 8-7, tied 8-8 and —down the stretch they come! — winning 9-8 when Yan Gomes gomered one down the left-field line for the game-winning hit, a mere five hours and eight minutes after the first pitch.
Even more remarkable: the Indians beat the Yankees on Kluber’s worst start of the season.
He threw 76 pitches, only got eight outs and never made it out of the third inning. After giving up just six runs in the month of September, he gave up six runs in 2 2/3 innings, a performance so unKluberish that it begs a dreaded question.
Is he hurt?
First Kluber got pushed back from an expected start in Game 1 to a start in Game 2, which gave him an extra day’s rest from his last regular-season start.
Then he pitched his worst game in forever.
For any conspiracy-friendly dot-connectors, that combination of events is, at the very least, an eyebrow archer.
Francisco Lindor, who went into full Jeter Mode again, with a monstrous clutch-soaked grand slam in the sixth inning that turned an 8-3 Yankees runaway into an 8-7 white-knuckler, said Kluber’s egg is an indicator of nothing other than this:
“He was fighting his command right from the get-go,” Francona said. “He had trouble getting ahead of hitters, and when he did, he had trouble finishing them off. Against guys he’s handled in the past.”
Not to worry, though, Team Tito’s relievers — waves of them — rode to the rescue and refused to give up any more runs until the Indians scored one of their own.
Even the loss of Encarnacion to a frightful-looking sprained ankle couldn’t extinguish the pilot light on the Indians’ will to win.
It was a championship performance by a team that has not yet won a championship, but they can see it from here.
Tomlin’s work in the 12th and 13th innings, pitching in relief three days before he was supposed to start, was the capper.
“I don’t know how else to say it, but he’s got major league (testicles),” Francona said.
Except he didn’t say testicles.
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