Ryan Merritt made his second consecutive strong spot start and the Cleveland bats came alive as the Indians completed the rare three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium with a 9-4 win over the New York Yankees in game two of Wednesday’s doubleheader.
The Indians (76-56) will take a well deserved Thursday off, holding a voluntary practice session in Detroit prior to their four-game series against the Tigers this weekend that includes another doubleheader on Friday night. They moved to 19-9 in the month of August and have a seven-game lead in the American League Central at day’s end as Minnesota defeated the Chicago White Sox for the second consecutive night with an 11-1 victory to improve to 19-10 in the month.
Cleveland dealt a major blow to New York’s chase for the top spot in the AL East by outscoring the Bronx Bombers 17-7 in the series. The three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium was the first for the Indians since 1989. Combined with a three-game winning streak from the top team in the division, the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees (70-62) now trail by five and a half games in the East while their lead in the AL Wild Card picture dropped to a single game over the streaking Minnesota Twins, which have ripped off three straight victories of their own.
The Indians erupted for four runs in the first inning against left-hander Jordan Montgomery and piled on in the later innings against the Yankees bullpen. Francisco Lindor started the second game just as he did the first with a single before moving to second on a walk from Austin Jackson. After a strikeout by Jose Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion plated the first run of the game with a single to center. A double by Carlos Santana scored Jackson and moved Encarnacion to third before a single by Yandy Diaz drove both runners in to make it a 4-0 game just six batters into the contest. The Tribe would load the bases on a single by Brandon Guyer and a two-out walk by Erik Gonzalez, but Lindor struck out in his second at bat of the inning to end the frame.
Merritt got a double play ball in the first, but the second was not as easy. Aaron Judge reached on an infield single to short and moved to second one out later on a single by Aaron Hicks. Greg Bird gave the Yankees a run with a single to right-center, scoring Judge from second to make it a 4-1 game before Merritt worked out of it.
Montgomery would be finished after just four innings of work and Encarnacion greeted lefty reliever Chasen Shreve in a rude manner, hitting a solo homer to left to extend Cleveland’s lead to 5-1. It would start four straight innings of scoring for the Tribe.
Gonzalez started the sixth with a leadoff double off of Shreve. After a groundout by Lindor, Jackson doubled to deep center over the head of Hicks to push across Gonzalez and send Shreve to the showers.
Caleb Smith, who entered for Shreve in the sixth, came back out for the seventh and got a pair of outs around a walk of Diaz, but Gomes made him pay with a two-run homer to right to make it an 8-1 game. Lindor would homer off of him to lead off the eighth, making it a 9-1 contest.
The Yankees scored in mop-up time off of Zach McAllister, who entered for the bottom of the ninth in the lopsided ball game. Todd Frazier walked with one out and moved into scoring position on a single by Hicks. Bird worked his count full before homering to center, scoring three runs to make it 9-4. A pair of pop outs in the infield would bring an end to the game and the series, giving the Indians their seventh consecutive win.
Merritt (2-0, 1.74 ERA) earned his second straight win with five and one-third innings of one-run baseball. He allowed five hits and walked a pair while striking out only one, but he was aided by two separate double play grounders. He spared the Indians bullpen excessive work in the doubleheader.
Montgomery (7-7, 4.15) lasted just four innings in taking his seventh loss of the season. He was charged with four runs on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts and needed 92 pitches to register 12 outs on the afternoon. Each reliever to follow him to the mound was tagged by the Tribe offense, as Shreve gave up two runs on four hits in an inning and a third, while Smith allowed three runs on three hits, including a pair of homers, over three and two-thirds innings while falling on the sword to prevent further wear and tear on the New York bullpen.
Four different Indians tallied multi-hit games off of the Yankees staff. Santana, making the start in right field, had two singles and a double, driving in one run while scoring another. Lindor, Jackson, and Encarnacion each notched two hits apiece. Lindor hit his 25th homer of the year while Encarnacion slugged his 31st.
Montgomery and Smith were both sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre following the Yankees’ loss.
While the Indians wait to start their series with the Tigers on Friday while enjoying their first scheduled off day in 23 days, the Yankees will stay put in New York to begin a key four-game weekend series with the Red Sox, one that could have a significant impact on the AL playoff picture as it currently exists.
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