CLEVELAND — Overcoming adversity has been part of the Indians’ pedigree since their surprising run all the way to Game 7 of the World Series last year.
Wednesday night at Progressive Field, the never-say-die Tribe’s postseason dreams were laid to rest.
Losing their third straight game after opening a commanding lead in the American League Division Series, the Indians dropped a 5-2 decision in Game 5 to the Yankees in front of a sellout crowd of 37,802 stunned fans at Progressive Field.
New York got a pair of early home runs from shortstop Didi Gregorius off Cleveland ace Corey Kluber and then hung on against a sagging Indians offense that managed only five hits.
It was a shocking development for the Indians, who entered the postseason as the AL’s top seed and the odds-on-favorite to capture their first World Series title since 1948 after a 102-win regular season that included the longest winning streak (22 games) in AL history.
But it continued a disturbing pattern for the Indians, who have failed to win in 14 of their last 17 chances to close out a postseason series — 0-6 the past two years — and are 4-18 in potential elimination games since Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.
Cleveland is the first team in MLB history to lose a postseason series after owning a two-game lead in back-to-back years.
Meanwhile, the Yankees became just the 10th team in MLB history to win a five-game series after dropping the first two games.
CC Sabathia, who won the Cy Young award with Cleveland in 2007, outpitched Kluber for the second time in the series.
The big left-hander retired the first nine hitters he faced — six on strikeouts — before shortstop Francisco Lindor led off the fourth with a single.
Kluber was better than his shockingly poor performance in Game 2, but he still didn’t resemble the Cy Young award frontrunner he was for the final five months of the regular season.
The right-hander allowed three runs on three hits while walking two and striking out six over 3⅔ innings. He allowed nine runs and four homers over six innings of two ALDS starts, with speculation that Kluber was dealing with a lower-back injury that plagued him during the first month of the regular season, appearing to have merit. When he was removed from the game, Kluber was bending over on the mound, favoring his back.
After producing 13 runs over the first two games of the series, the offense vanished for the Indians, who scored just five times in three straight losses. A pair of stars, shortstop Francisco Lindor and MVP candidate Jose Ramirez went a combined 4-for-38 in the series.
The Yankees scored first for the fourth time in five games, with Kluber allowing a solo homer to the third batter, Gregorius, who lined a 1-2 pitch over the right-field wall.
Brett Gardner started the third with a single and after Kluber struck out Aaron Judge for the second time, Gregorius got him again with a two-run shot that put New York in front 3-0.
Sabathia, who retired the first nine batters he faced — six on strikeouts — cruised the first four innings, allowing his first hit on a leadoff single to Lindor in the fourth. Cleveland struck out 15 times on the night.
The Indians finally caught up to Sabathia in the fifth, stringing together four straight base hits to score twice on RBI singles from Roberto Perez and Giovanny Urshela.
But Cleveland never threatened again.
The Indians’ bullpen duo of Andrew Miller and Bryan Shaw kept it close, combining to pitch four scoreless innings, but Cody Allen allowed a pair of runs in the ninth to provide a cushion for Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman.
Chapman closed the books on Cleveland’s season with two scoreless innings, permitting only one batter to reach on a walk.
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