Red Sox

ALDS: Severino, Judge help Yanks top Indians 7-3 to force Game 5

yankees_indians_aaron_judge_100917.jpg

ALDS: Severino, Judge help Yanks top Indians 7-3 to force Game 5

NEW YORK -- Luis SeverinoAaron Judge and the New York Yankees are headed back to Cleveland for a decisive Game 5 -- thanks to plenty of help from the Indians.

Severino rebounded from his playoff debacle, Judge delivered a big hit and the Yankees took advantage of shoddy defense by Cleveland to beat the Indians 7-3 Monday night and even their AL Division Series at two games apiece.

"We've got a shot now," said New York manager Joe Girardi, harshly criticized for his Game 2 decisions. "So it's a totally different feeling than it was the other day, and these guys have picked me up."

Gary Sanchez homered and a slumping Judge laced an early two-run double for his only hit of the series to go with 12 strikeouts in 15 at-bats.

Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer struggled on three days' rest and was chased in the second inning. But it was on the wet Yankee Stadium field where the Indians really flopped, committing a season-high four errors that marked a franchise record for a postseason game and led to six unearned runs.

The defending AL champions made only 76 errors all season, the lowest total in the league.

"The whole night, we made it hard on ourselves to win," manager Terry Francona said.

After preventing a three-game sweep with a 1-0 win Sunday night, the wild-card Yankees will start CC Sabathia against his original team in Game 5 on Wednesday. Indians ace Corey Kluber gets the ball in a rematch from Game 2, when he was hit hard by New York.

"It's hard to imagine giving it to somebody better," Francona said. "We're looking forward to it."

The winner faces Houston in the AL Championship Series after the Astros finished off Boston in four games Monday to win their ALDS.

"We've got a young team and they're hungry," Severino said.

Simply taking two in a row to send the series back to Cleveland was no small feat for the Yankees. The last time the Indians lost consecutive games was Aug. 22-23 at home against Boston, just before starting their AL-record 22-game winning streak. From that point on, Cleveland had gone 35-4 before arriving in the Bronx for Game 3 of the ALDS.

Minus injured slugger Edwin Encarnacion, the Indians have scored three runs in two games since.

Severino got only one out in the wild-card game against Minnesota last Tuesday, but was bailed out by his teammates as New York advanced with an 8-4 victory. This time, the 23-year-old ace was determined to come through, and he did.

"I think he was able to relax a lot more. He was able to control his adrenaline," Girardi said. "He was able to channel things down and make his pitch, as opposed to just trying to power his way through it."

Handed an early 5-0 lead and showing lots of emotion on the mound, the fired-up righty struck out nine in seven innings. With the crowd of 47,316 chanting his name, Severino threw 113 pitches and gave up four hits - including Carlos Santana's two-run homer and Roberto Perez's solo shot.

"I told him after the game, he grew up a lot today," Girardi said.

Tommy Kahnle relieved a wild Dellin Betances in the eighth and got six straight outs - five on strikeouts - for his first save of the season as New York improved to 3-0 when facing playoff elimination this year.

"There's a lot of confidence in that room," Girardi said.

Sanchez hit his second home run of the series off Bryan Shaw in the sixth to make it 7-3.

A rainy day in the Big Apple prevented both teams from taking batting practice on the field. But the tarp was pulled and play started right on time, with fans in hooded ponchos bunched below the overhangs seeking cover from a heavy drizzle.

Showers dissipated in the bottom of the first, though a few puddles remained on the slick warning track all night.

The first of two costly errors by normally sure-handed third baseman Giovanny Urshela, a .224 hitter in the lineup for his defense, was a painful one. Starlin Castro's sinking line drive in the second struck him just above the left ankle and caromed away.

Shaken up, Urshela was checked by a trainer but stayed in the game.

With two outs, Todd Frazier pulled a 78 mph curve to deep left and it landed smack on the foul line for an RBI double. A frustrated Bauer gestured with his hand when he didn't get a strike-three call on a checked swing by Aaron Hicks, who soon singled home a run.

Brett Gardner singled and, after a mound visit from Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway, Judge had a gritty at-bat. The rookie slugger was 0 for 11 with nine strikeouts in the series before fighting back from 0-2 to a full count and lining a two-run double to the left-field wall on one hop.

"Just had to grind it out," Judge said.

After pulling in at second base, he clapped and pointed to the Yankees dugout.

Bauer managed only five outs after tossing two-hit ball with eight strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings during a 4-0 win in the series opener last Thursday. All four runs he allowed were unearned.

"I thought my stuff was better than Game 1," Bauer said. "Just a couple of little things went their way instead of mine."

Urshela's two-out throwing error with the bases loaded in the third made it 5-0.

Frazier reached on pitcher Danny Salazar's two-base throwing error to start the fifth. He scored on Gardner's shallow sacrifice fly to center fielder Jason Kipnis, a second baseman moved to the outfield late this season. Kipnis began the year on the disabled list with a shoulder problem.

"As a team, we didn't play the greatest defense tonight," Bauer said.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Indians: Encarnacion sat out again after leaving Game 2 with a sprained right ankle. Before the game, Francona said the team hoped Encarnacion would be available to pinch-hit. ... OF Brandon Guyer is scheduled for surgery Wednesday in Arizona to repair a tendon in his left wrist, ending any chances of him playing in this postseason.

UP NEXT

Indians: A favorite to win his second Cy Young Award next month, Kluber went 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and 265 strikeouts this season. Those impressive numbers included a 2-0 mark with a 1.59 ERA against New York that left him 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA in seven career regular-season starts vs. the Yankees. But they got to him in Game 2 last Friday for six runs and seven hits over 2 2/3 innings.

Yankees: If they don't win Game 5, it could be Sabathia's final outing for the Yankees. The 37-year-old lefty was 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA this season and can become a free agent after the World Series. He was removed with an 8-3 cushion in Game 2 at Cleveland after only 77 pitches. New York's vaunted bullpen squandered the lead and the Yankees lost 9-8 in 13 innings.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Mookie Betts hits 2 HRs to power Red Sox to 4-3 win over Blue Jays

screen_shot_2018-04-25_at_10.19.05_pm.png
USA TODAY Sports Photo

Mookie Betts hits 2 HRs to power Red Sox to 4-3 win over Blue Jays

TORONTO -- After six home runs in his last seven games, it seems Mookie Betts' isn't impressing his teammates anymore.

"We don't care about Mookie, we care about the Bruins," Hanley Ramirez joked in the locker room after Betts' latest offensive outburst helped the Boston Red Sox snap their season-high three-game losing streak with a 4-3 over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

Betts homered twice and drove in three runs as the Red Sox improved to 6-1 in one-run games and got their 18th win of the season, tying the franchise record for victories before May 1.

While the Red Sox outfielder has reached base in each of his last 19 games against the Blue Jays, he said he feels he is starting to tap into the power side of his game.

"I think so. A lot of learning with the new hitting [coaches], and with [new teammate] J.D. [Martinez], just putting things together," he said. "Actually learning how to use my strength versus going off ability."

Betts got the Red Sox on the scoreboard with leadoff homer in the first -- his third such shot of the season and 14th of his career --over the left-field fence. He then put the Red Sox in front for good in the seventh, taking reliever Danny Barnes (1-1) deep over the right-field wall for his eighth homer of the season, a two-run shot that also drove in Brock Holt.

Alex Cora said it is games like this that has Betts keeping the very best of company in the major leagues.

"They're special," the Red Sox manager said. "The Trouts, the Altuves, the more at-bats they get the better you feel about it,"

Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez (3-0) gave up three runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings, throwing a season-high 106 pitches.

One night after giving up a walk-off home run to Curtis Granderson, closer Craig Kimbrel worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save of the season.

Though Boston has now won all of Rodriguez's four starts this season, after the recent losing skid, the left-hander was more than happy to give credit to the guy who jump-started the offense.

"We needed something like that, somebody to get us in front and do it like he did it today," he said.

However, Yangervis Solarte wasn't handing out much credit after the game. The third baseman's sixth home run of the season into the second deck of left field in the sixth inning gave Toronto its only lead of the game at 3-2.

"I think [Rodriguez] got lucky a couple of times and we didn't take advantage of it," he said. "I think we made the adjustment a little bit. But I think he got lucky more than us getting beat."

Aaron Sanchez lasted six innings for the Blue Jays, giving up just three hits and two runs, while striking out a season-high eight.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: SS Xander Bogaerts might be in the Boston lineup Friday, but lost his chance for another rehab appearance with Triple-A Pawtucket's game rained out on Wednesday and the team off Thursday. Manager Alex Cora said Bogaerts would visit the doctor before making a determination on his availability. He has been out since fracturing his ankle on April 8.

Blue Jays: 3B Josh Donaldson should be ready to begin a rehab assignment later this week, according to manager John Gibbons. The former AL MVP has been out since April 10 with right shoulder inflammation. ... SS Troy Tulowitzki has been cleared to begin light baseball activities, according to a team spokesperson. Tulowitzki, currently on the 60-day DL after having bone spurs removed from both feet during spring training, will be monitored and re-evaluated after four weeks.

OUTRIGHT THIEVERY

With steals of both second and third base in the seventh inning by Andrew Benitendi, the Red Sox have now converted 20 of their last 20 stolen-base attempts against Toronto.

NOT O-K?

The Red Sox struck out 10 times and has now done so in each of their last four games, after reaching that mark just two in their first 19 contests.

HIGHLIGHT REEL

Just missing leading off the bottom of the first with a home run, Steve Pearce instead decided to make a play for second as the ball caromed off the left-field wall. But with left fielder Benitendi making a good, one-hop throw to second, only a nifty hook slide around the tag of Eduardo Nunez prevented the out.

A FOUR-GONE CONCLUSION?

Despite posting a 13-0 record when plating four or more runs, the Blue Jays dropped to 1-9 when scoring less than four.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: LHP Chris Sale (1-1, 1.86) takes the mound for the series finale looking to improve on his 4-1 record with a 0.96 ERA in seven appearances in Toronto.

Blue Jays: RHP Marco Estrada (2-1, 5.32) is looking for his first win against the Red Sox since June 5, 2016, after going 0-1 against them in four starts last season.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Drellich: Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez control Blake Swihart's future

my_post-17.jpg
Ap Photos

Drellich: Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez control Blake Swihart's future

If the Red Sox really believed in Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon long term, would Blake Swihart still be here? 

Swihart is static. There’s an idea of what he can be someday, but he’s not presently growing as a bench player. Whether his future lies with the Red Sox, then, appears to depend entirely on others: Leon and Vazquez. At some point, one of the trio needs to be moved, be it during the season or in the winter at latest.

Less than a month into 2018, Swihart is getting even fewer opportunities than anticipated. Manager Alex Cora didn’t use Swihart in the field during blowouts to start the road trip: not behind the plate, not at third base, not in left field. Some at-bats at DH were Swihart’s pittance as the Red Sox trounced the Angels.

Cora’s going out of his way to get most everyone playing time, but Swihart’s mostly spectating.

MORE RED SOX:

“We’re in such a good groove on the mound, and you don't want to break the rhythm,” Cora said in Anaheim. “It’s a tough one. It’s one I’m fighting on a daily basis, and I’m trying to keep the communication there. But as a player, as a utility guy back in the day, sometimes I had great days. Some days I didn't want to see the manager. I know that. If there's a day I look and he doesn’t want to talk to me, I understand. I’ve been in his shoes before.”

Now, Cora doesn’t control the roster, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski does. And the roster overall is doing just fine with Swihart in limited use. But there must be some sort of plan if Swihart’s going to continue in this non-role for an entire season. There has to be a pay-off for the Red Sox, considering Swihart’s trade value isn’t getting any better. What else could the Sox be thinking about, aside from uncertainty in Vazquez and Leon? (Simply hoping and praying for a better trade offer for Swihart doesn't sound reasonable.)

“I’m fighting the situation, but it’s not like we’re feeling sorry,” Cora said. “He’s part of this group and he’s important. There’s more that comes into the equation and he knows that, the way the game goes he has to be ready. A pinch-hit appearance, to run. … He has to stay sharp. He’s playing for the Boston Red Sox and he’s a part of this team.”

For now. Another five months this way sounds crazy. But maybe that’s what the Sox need to make up their minds.

Again, the evaluation at this point isn’t about Swihart. You can’t evaluate a player who is not playing. But the Sox know he has upside. The choice centers on Leon and Vazquez, whose receiving skills are lauded and appreciated by the pitching staff, but whose bats may be too weak to justify their tandem beyond this year. Or for even the length of this year. 

The Sox’ .439 OPS from their backstops was the worst in the majors entering Wednesday. They were hitting a combined .179.

Cora on WEEI’s Dale and Keefe on Wednesday that the Sox are not considering Swihart behind the plate, as of now. The Sox offense may be able to power them through 2018 without Leon or Vazquez hitting well. Perhaps with Craig Kimbrel and Drew Pomeranz looking at free agency (and at least the potential for David Price to opt out), the Sox feel 2019 is a time they could more easily work in Swihart and live with presumed growing pains behind the plate.

Cora says Swihart has handled everything well.

“Excellent,” Cora said. “Some guys, there are guys who can suck the air out of the clubhouse because of their situation, but he's the other way around. He’s catching bullpens and taking ground balls at second. … He’s showing up early. You have to give him credit, because it’s not easy.”

Credit is nice. An opportunity is what he needs. Swihart cannot earn one on his own unless one of the two catchers in front of him gets hurt or squanders his own.

MORE RED SOX:

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE