What began with a long rain delay evolved into a wild back-and-forth affair Wednesday night at Progressive Field. The New York Yankees eliminated Cleveland with a gutsy comeback win in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series (NYY 10, CLE 9). The game featured multiple comebacks and multiple lead changes. It was a thriller.
New York advances to the ALDS, where the team will take on the AL East rival Rays in the Southern California hub. Cleveland? Well, the club goes home for the winter, with the longest championship drought in the sport having been extended another year. Here are five takeaways from Game 2 -- the longest nine-inning game in MLB history at four hours and 50 minutes.
MLB botched the rain delay
The start of Game 2 was a total mess. First pitch was delayed 43 minutes because of incoming weather and it never rained. The tarp was on the field but not a single rain drop. The game eventually started but it didn't last long. Heavy rain arrived in the bottom of the first and forced another delay, this one 33 minutes.
Why start the game when there was rain coming? Did no one realize the big green blob on the radar was rain? MLB makes all weather-related decisions during the postseason. It's not up to the home team or the umpire crew. It's all MLB, and whoever made the call to start the game when they did totally botched it. It was a sloppy first inning in an important postseason game.
Urshela punished his former team
Yankees third baseman Gio Urshela began his career with Cleveland as a 17-year-old in 2009 and remained with the franchise until May 2018, when he was designated for assignment and traded to the Blue Jays. Urshela was a great glove/no-bat guy who has since blossomed into a productive hitter since arriving in New York last year.
Cleveland roughed up Masahiro Tanaka around the rain delay, putting four runs on the board in the first inning. The Yankees started to claw back in the second, on Giancarlo Stanton's second solo home run of the series. In the fourth, a triple and two walks loaded the bases for Urshela. He made his former team pay with a go-ahead grand slam against ace setup man James Karinchak.
That's some bat flip, huh? Urshela hit the 13th grand slam in Yankees postseason history -- the Braves are second with seven postseason grand slams -- and, believe it or not, Urshela's is the first of those 13 to be hit with the Yankees trailing. They were tied or ahead for the other 12 postseason grand slams. Crazy.
Karinchak, it should be noted, struck out 53 batters in 27 innings during the regular season. He allowed only two extra-base hits to righties in 32 1/3 career innings before Urshela's grand slam. Karinchak was the best man for the job in that spot and he didn't make that bad a pitch, but Urshela beat him to the spot.
Cleveland kept rallying ...
Give them credit, Cleveland players could've easily sunk their heads and gone away quietly after Urshela's grand slam. Instead, they kept battling back. Jose Ramirez doubled in two runs in the fifth inning to knot the game up at 6-6, then, after the Yankees took an 8-6 lead in the sixth, Jordan Luplow doubled in two runs in the seventh.
Sandy Alomar Jr., the acting manager as Terry Francona recovers from a minor gastrointestinal procedure last month, pinch-hit Luplow for Josh Naylor, his hottest hitter in the series. Questionable move! Yankees manager Aaron Boone out questionable-moved him by replacing Zack Britton with Jonathan Loaisiga to get the right-on-right matchup. Loaisiga gave up the double to Luplow.
With the score tied 8-8 in the eighth, Boone stuck with Loaisiga, who walked the first batters of the inning. It was only then that Boone went to Aroldis Chapman, who allowed a go-ahead single to Cesar Hernandez. Delino DeShields Jr. read the ball well off the bat and took off from second base immediately.
New York's bullpen allowed three runs on five hits and four walks in five innings, with two runs charged to Britton. Cleveland's offense went 6 for 15 (.400) with runners in scoring position, allowing them to overcome the 12 walks (!) issues by the pitching staff.
... but so did the Yankees
Like I said in the intro, it was a back-and-forth game. The Yankees rallied from down 4-0 to take the lead in the middle innings and they rallied from down 9-8 in the ninth inning to take a 10-9 lead. New York loaded the bases against closer Brad Hand with no outs and Gary Sanchez, who homered in the sixth inning, tied the game with a sacrifice fly to center.
Sanchez only tied the game. DJ LeMahieu did the honors of giving the Yankees the lead. He poked a two-strike single back up the middle to score Urshela from second base. DeShields slipped in center field, allowing the runners to move up and ensuring Urshela crossed the plate. I count no fewer than four hops on LeMahieu's go-ahead hit:
The Yankees went 3 for 13 (.231) with runners in scoring position in Game 2 -- they had eight hits and drew 12 (!) walks in nine innings -- which isn't great, but it was good enough. Chapman came back out for the ninth inning after throwing six pitches in the eighth, and closed out Cleveland's season with a scoreless frame.
Those 12 walks are tied for the most in a game in postseason history, by the way. White Sox pitchers walked 12 in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series. That was a 14-inning game. Also, this is the just the second time the Yankees both scored and allowed at least nine runs in a postseason game.
Naylor made history
Cleveland acquired Naylor in the Mike Clevinger trade at the deadline hoping he would give their outfield a shot in the arm. He certainly did that in the Wild Card Series. Naylor went 4 for 4 with two doubles and a home run in the Game 1 loss. He opened Game 2 with a two-run double in the first inning.
With that double Naylor became the first player in baseball history to record a hit in his first five career postseason at-bats. Hard to start your playoff career any better than that. He also joined Jhonny Peralta as only the players in franchise history with an extra-base hit in their first two postseason games.
Naylor underwhelmed following the trade, hitting .230/.277/.279 in 22 games with Cleveland (he hit .278/.316/.417 in 18 games with the Padres). He is only 23 though, and he's a former first-round pick as well. Naylor can really hit and he showed it in the Wild Card Series.