Yankees upstage Indians to reach ALCS, Nats force game five
The New York Yankees defeated the Cleveland Indians 5-2 to progress to the American League Championship series, while the Washington Nationals stayed alive in the National League Division Series.
Brett Gardner iced New York's 3-2 lead in the ninth inning by plating two runs with a single on his 12th pitch of an at-bat against closer Cody Allen on Wednesday.
The Indians had two errors in the ninth inning (three for the game), and they paid for their sloppy play by exiting the MLB postseason.
New York lost the first two games of the ALDS, but fought back to win three consecutive matches against the defending AL champs, who will enter the 2018 season with a 70-year championship drought.
With the loss, the Indians became the first 100-win team to blow a two-game lead in a divisional series since the 2001 Oakland Athletics (also to Yankees).
Meanwhile, the Nationals crushed the Chicago Cubs 5-0 at Wrigley Field, tying their NLDS at two games apiece.
After a day of rain, the Nats and reigning World Series champions the Cubs returned to the diamond Wednesday in murky, cloudy Chicago skies. Stephen Strasburg got the start despite apparently being under the weather, and he shut the Cubs out with electric stuff.
Now, just like game seven of last year's World Series, the Cubs will have to win a big game on the road to save their season.
SABATHIA TURNS BACK THE CLOCK
CC Sabathia spun some of his 2007 Cy Young Award-winning form while becoming the first pitcher in playoff history with nine-plus strikeouts in fewer than five innings pitched.
Sabathia earned the start in the city that drafted him, and he struck out nine batters with two earned runs in 4.3 innings. The six-time All-Star had all his off-speed pitches working through four innings, but he was pulled in the fifth after allowing two runs. Still, Sabathia proved to be a useful starting option moving forward this postseason.
STRASBURG NEARLY UNHITTABLE
Game four was originally slated for Tuesday night, but hours of rain forced a delay. The extra day allowed Washington to start Strasburg instead of Tanner Roark, much to Chicago's dismay.
Strasburg struck out 12 batters in seven shutout innings, while allowing just three hits and two walks. The Nats ace has now tossed 14 scoreless innings with 22 strikeouts through two starts this postseason. He used his fastball Wednesday to consistently set up his devastating change-up. The Cubs probably would have preferred playing a day earlier in the rain.
GREGORIUS ON THE RISE, BUT YANKEES NEED MORE OUT OF JUDGE
Didi Gregorius bashed two early home runs off Corey Kluber. He also hit a home run in the AL wildcard win over the Minnesota Twins. The clutch infielder, who entered the day one for 13 in this series, also hit a single to finish the game three for four with two runs scored and three RBIs.
While Gregorius' production was inspiring for Yankees fans, Aaron Judge's woeful stretch must have everyone in New York worried. The All-Star rookie showed a propensity to rack up strikeouts during the regular season, and he set a postseason record by collecting 16 strikeouts this series. He went 0 for five with four strikeouts.
DIDI SENDS THE BALL WAY BACK
The 27-year-old smashed a homer deep, very deep.
CUBS AT NATS IN SERIES DECIDER
The Cubs, unable to muster any offensive success against Strasburg, missed their opportunity to close out the series at home. The Nationals will bring momentum back to Washington, where they will try to avenge a game-one loss to Kyle Hendricks.
Meanwhile, the Yankees and Astros will face off in the ALCS beginning Friday in Houston. The Astros will send Dallas Keuchel to the mound for game one, with Justin Verlander starting game two.