Athletics

Cleveland blows 2-0 series lead, Yankees win Game 5, head to ALCS

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Cleveland blows 2-0 series lead, Yankees win Game 5, head to ALCS

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND -- These young Yankees were unshaken, resilient and as tough as the city they represent.

The baby Bronx Bombers have grown up fast.

Didi Gregorius, following in the October footprints left by Derek Jeter, homered twice off Corey Kluber as New York beat the Cleveland Indians 5-2 in Game 5 on Wednesday night to complete its comeback from a 2-0 deficit in the Division Series and dethrone the AL champions.

The bend-but-don't-break Yankees, way ahead of schedule, staved off elimination for the fourth time in this postseason and advanced to play the Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series starting Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

With a blend of young stars and older veterans coming up big, the Yankees rocked Cleveland and bailed out manager Joe Girardi, who failed to challenge a key call in a Game 2 loss that threatened to sabotage New York's season.

"These guys had my back and they fought and fought," Girardi said. "They beat a really good team. What those guys did for me, I'll never forget it. "

The Yankees went 2-5 against the AL West champion Astros, led by 5-foot-6 dynamo and MVP candidate Jose Altuve. But none of that matters now to this group of New Yorkers.

After winning twice at home, and after Girardi said he "screwed up" and felt horrible about it, 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.

"Nobody wanted the season to be over," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It doesn't wind down, it comes to a crashing halt. It's disappointing. We felt good about ourselves. We made it harder to win, especially in the last two games."

The Indians closed to 3-2 in the fifth against starter CC 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. An elated Girardi hugged his coaches.

The Yankees 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. The skid dates to last year's World Series, when they squandered a 3-1 lead to the Cubs.

Cleveland is the first team in history to blow a two-game series lead in consecutive postseasons.

Everything was set up for the Indians: Kluber on the mound, Game 5 at home, sensational setup man Andrew Millerrested.

The Yankees, though, wouldn't be denied. They battled back from a 3-0 deficit in the first inning of their wild-card game against Minnesota and then had to overcome a crushing loss in Game 2, when Girardi's decisions led to him being booed at Yankee Stadium.

But these Yankees displayed pinstriped pride.

They're moving on.

JUDGE NOT

The Yankees advanced without much help from Judge, who struck out four times in Game 5 and went 1 for 20 (.050) in the series with 16 strikeouts - an ALDS record. But the 6-foot-7 rookie might have saved New York's season in Game 3, when he reached above the right-field wall to rob Francisco Lindor of a two-run homer in a 1-0 win. "I didn't do my job at the top of the order, but my teammates came up big for me," Judge said.

KLUBER KLOBBERED

Kluber was one of baseball's most consistent pitchers all season, winning 18 games and leading the AL with a 2.25 ERA.

However, October was cruel to the right-hander. He allowed nine runs, including four homers, over 6 1/3 innings in two postseason starts, hardly what he or the Indians expected.

Kluber overcame a back issue earlier this season and it flared up this fall.

"He's fighting a lot," Francona said. "I think you also have to respect the fact that guy wants to go out there and he's our horse. And sometimes it doesn't work."

SLUMPS

The Indians batted .171 as a team with All-Stars Francisco Lindor (2 for 18) and Jose Ramirez (2 for 20) unable to snap out of funks.

SWEET SWING

Gregorius set a franchise record for home runs in a season by a shortstop with 25, one more than Jeter hit in 1999 when No. 2 led the Yankees to a second straight World Series title.

Gregorius got New York off to an ideal start, homering with two outs in the first when Kluber grooved a fastball. The shot deep into the seats in right raised the anxiety level to an already jittery Cleveland crowd fearing the worst.

Bounced from Boston: Red Sox fire Farrell after five years as manager

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Bounced from Boston: Red Sox fire Farrell after five years as manager

John Farrell is out as manager of the Red Sox. 

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made the announcement Wednesday, ending Farrell's five-year tenure as manager after spending four years as the team's pitching coach earlier in his career.

Farrell managed the team to a World Series title in 2013, his first season back with the team after the Sox acquired him from Toronto. He went 432-378 as manager in the regular season, reaching the postseason three times (all as winners of the American League East) and winning division titles in his final two seasons. Despite winning the devision, the Sox were eliminated in the ALDS in each of the last two seasons.

READ MORE AT NBCSports.com/Boston

With salary set to spike, could Khris Davis be in line for long-term extension?

With salary set to spike, could Khris Davis be in line for long-term extension?

A second consecutive 40-plus homer season has Khris Davis lined up for quite a hefty pay raise.

The web site mlbtraderumors.com on Monday unveiled its annual salary projections for players who are eligible for arbitration. It’s no surprise that Davis projects as the costliest of the eight A’s players due for arbitration this winter. Mlbtraderumors.com predicts Davis to pull down a whopping $11 million salary for 2018, which would more than double his 2017 figure of $5 million.

The A’s can absorb that number with no problem. They currently have just two players — outfielder Matt Joyce and reliever Santiago Casilla — with guaranteed contracts on the books for 2018, at a total cost of $12 million. Go ahead and throw in $6 million more for second baseman Jed Lowrie, as the A’s have been pretty clear they plan to exercise his $6 million club option.

With just $18 million essentially tied up right now, that gives Oakland plenty of financial flexibility to fit Davis in, even after factoring in the seven other arbitration-eligible players and salaries for pre-arbitration players.

“If it is (pricey), it is,” A’s general manager David Forst said last week of Davis’ potential salary. “I don’t think you could overstate the impact he has on the rest of the lineup.”

Forst and A’s vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane have made it clear they’re interested in eventually locking up the young cornerstone players who emerged over the past year or so (think Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, etc. …).

Some might wonder if a player such as Davis, 29, could be in line for a multi-year extension himself. With back-to-back years of 42 and 43 homers with 100-plus RBI, he’s certainly filled a glaring void for right-handed power that was left after the trades of Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson. And it’s reasonable to expect Davis could continue to do so for a few more seasons, given his age.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported during the summer that the A’s have, at one time or another, held exploratory talks with Davis and shortstop Marcus Semien about multi-year deals. In a late-September sit-down for the A’s Insider Podcast, Davis said he wasn’t aware of any current extension discussions between his camp and the team. Also keep in mind that his big 2017 season only drives the price up for any long-term deal.

But Beane and Forst made it clear during their season-ending press conference that they greatly value Davis’ impact on their lineup. Barring any roster moves that open up a full-time spot for him at designated hitter, they seem willing to live with the defensive shortcomings in left field that come with Davis’ subpar throwing arm. The upshot: Don’t anticipate reading Davis’ name in too many trade rumors this winter.

The A’s other arbitration-eligible players, with mlbtraderumors.com’s salary projections in parentheses, are Semien ($3.2 million), starter Kendall Graveman ($2.6 million), relievers Blake Treinen ($2.3 million), Chris Hatcher ($2.2 million) and Liam Hendriks ($1.9 million), catcher Josh Phegley ($1.1 million) and outfielder Jake Smolinski ($700,000).

Of that group, Semien, 27, could still merit consideration for an extension. When healthy, he provides an impact bat that could play well even if he were eventually bumped off of shortstop by one of Oakland’s up-and-coming prospects.

Graveman, 26, is a leader of the rotation, but his recent shoulder issues might give the A’s pause in locking him up.