No one outside of the Yankees organization knew Didi Gregorius would be as productive a player for the team. Game 5 of the ALDS showed how far Gregorius has come.
Gregorius saved the Yankees’ season by hitting a three-run home run with the Yankees down 3-0 just last Tuesday in the American League Wild Card Game against the Minnesota Twins. This was just the beginning of the heroics from Gregorius whose big Game 5 lifted the Yankees past the favored Cleveland Indians.
Gregorius, who was moved to third in the lineup prior to Game 4, came into his at-bat against Corey Kluber with the Yankees generating nothing in the first inning. Gregorius took advantage of a mistake from Kluber and deposited it into the right-field seats to quiet the crowd and give the Yankees the early 1-0 lead. That wouldn’t be all for Gregorius, who later on in the game found himself up with a man on and still up 1-0. Gregorius would put another one in the right-field seats and give the Yankees an all-important three-run cushion.
Didi’s bat isn’t the only strength of his game. He came up with a huge defensive play with the tying run on second and the go-ahead run on first. Gregorius would use his range and his arm to gun out the speedy Francisco Lindor the help preserve the Yankees’ one-run lead.
Gregorius had the tough job of replacing Derek Jeter, who was always clutch during the playoffs and has done an amazing job at doing so. Gregorius has turned into one of the premier shortstops in all of baseball with his glove, bat, and more. He has put to bed all talk of what would Jeter do in a situation like this and is making a mark on the big stage.
In a winner take all game, the Yankees turned to veteran left-hander C.C. Sabathia to keep their season alive, and Sabathia delivered.
Although he only gave the Yankees 4.1 innings, Sabathia kept the Indians’ bats in check after the first Gregorius home run. Sabathia would go on to strike out the first two batters he faced and would not allow the Indian fans to get back into the game. Sabathia wouldn’t allow a hit until Francisco Lindor’s single in the fourth inning. Sabathia struck out nine allowing just two earned runs.
Sabathia looked like the Sabathia of 2012 in his biggest start since the 2012 postseason. The difference now is that he doesn’t overpower hitters and has, well, become a pitcher. His style of pitching is the perfect complement to hard-throwing Luis Severino in a postseason series.
Bullpen Shuts the Door
Perhaps the one advantage that the Yankees had over the Indians coming into the series was their bullpen depth. This turned out to play a major role in the game as Girardi was forced to go to his bullpen early in the fifth.
Sabathia left with runners on first and second and handed the ball to veteran David Robertson, who the Yankees brought back in a mid-season acquisition. Robertson got Lindor to hit into an inning-ending double play and thus stranding the tying run on second. He would give the Yankees 2.2 innings on just 29 pitches. His curveball was the sharpest it has been since the Wild Card Game and had the Cleveland hitters off balance.
Aroldis Chapman would come in and shut the door for the Yanks with a six-out save and the Yankees are going to ALCS for the first time since 2012.
Gregorius and the bullpen will continue to play a major impact on this Yankee team as they continue their run in the ALCS against the Houston Astros.
Now with the Indians out of the playoffs, Houston is the favorite to win the American League. The Yankees remain underdogs and that’s just how they like it.
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