2017-10-06 00:02:02
Indians 4, Yankees 0 | Cleveland leads series, 1-0: Jay Bruce, Who Escaped the Yankees in the Summer, Haunts Them in the Fall

00:02, October 06 177 0

CLEVELAND — When the Mets launched their fire sale this summer, willing to take penny-stock prospects for the raft of veterans they were intent on unloading, there were two teams that jumped to the head of the line for outfielder Jay Bruce: the Yankees and the Cleveland Indians.

The Yankees offered two middling prospects for Bruce but refused to pick up more than a small portion of the $3.7 million remaining on his contract.

The Indians offered only a fringe prospect — a 30th-round draft pick who had been converted from pitcher to infielder — but they offered to pick up the rest of Bruce’s contract, and the Mets accepted.

If money was truly the difference in the deal, it also became the pivot point in the opening game of the teams’ American League division series on Thursday night.

Bruce hit a two-run homer, had three R.B.I. and scored twice, providing ample support behind the dominant pitching of Trevor Bauer in a 4-0 victory over the Yankees.

Bauer held the Yankees without a hit for five and two-thirds innings and allowed just two hits before relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen polished off the shutout.

The Yankees’ best chance to rally came when Miller — whom they traded to Cleveland midway through the 2016 season — walked Chase Headley and Brett Gardner with two outs in the eighth. But Allen entered and got Aaron Judge to chase a 3-2 curveball in the dirt, the fourth time the Yankees slugger struck out.

The Yankees also had more shortcomings on the mound. After Luis Severino, their ace, lasted just a third of an inning in Tuesday’s wild-card win over Minnesota, Sonny Gray, the No. 2 starter, could muster only three and one-third innings before he was pulled.

For a young team that looked so overmatched, Game 2 — in which the Yankees will face the Cy Young Award candidate Corey Kluber — is shaping up to be an early test of navigating the emotional highs and lows of a playoff series.

“Is it something you monitor? Of course,” Manager Joe Girardi said before the game, praising his team for its handling of the winding regular season and of Tuesday’s wild-card game. “You’re probably going to go through it, and you can do as much as you want to try to prepare them for it, but there’s nothing like being in the moment.”

Girardi said the Yankees would possibly try to rattle the idiosyncratic Bauer, whose routine of extreme long tossing and use of weighted balls gave him something of a reputation as an oddball. Bauer missed his first scheduled start in last year’s playoffs when he sliced his finger playing with a drone.

On Thursday night, he carved up the Yankees.

Expertly commanding his fastball, big curveball, cutter and changeup, Bauer did not allow a hit until Aaron Hicks lined a double with one out in the sixth. Until then, the only ball that was remotely close to being a hit was a liner into the left-field gap by Headley to lead off the third. But Jason Kipnis, a second baseman moonlighting in center field, laid out and made a diving catch.

After Hicks’s double, Bauer recovered to retire Brett Gardner on a grounder and then struck out Judge for a third time.

Bauer did not allow another hit until Starlin Castro singled with two outs in the seventh. When Manager Terry Francona popped out of the dugout to relieve Bauer, all of his teammates in the infield congregated on the mound and offered high-fives. As he walked off the mound, the crowd gave a standing ovation, and he tipped his cap as he reached the dugout.

The way Bauer pitched, the Yankees needed a near-perfect effort from Gray, who may have been feeling some déjà vu. The last time he pitched in the playoffs, as a rookie in 2013, Justin Verlander, then with the Detroit Tigers, no-hit his Oakland Athletics for six and two-thirds innings to win the decisive Game 5 of their American League division series, 3-0.

Behind stifling pitching of their own, the Indians had two opportunities to blow the game open early.

Bruce lined a double off the left-field wall to begin the second inning and moved to third on Carlos Santana’s line-drive single to center. Gray then hit Lonnie Chisenhall on the elbow with a 1-1 fastball to load the bases with one out.

But Roberto Perez grounded a 3-2 fastball to shortstop Didi Gregorius, who gloved it awkwardly yet still fed Starlin Castro in time to complete a double play with Bruce coming home on the play. Gray escaped further damage when Giovanny Urshela flied out.

In the fourth, after Gray walked Edwin Encarnacion, he threw an 0-1, letter-high fastball that Bruce smashed into the right-field seats, pushing the Indians’ lead to 3-0. They threatened to add more when Santana followed with a walk, Chisenhall popped up and Perez walked. That ended Gray’s night.

Urshela greeted reliever Adam Warren with a single up the middle to load the bases. But Warren stiffened and struck out Francisco Lindor, then came back from a 3-1 count on Kipnis to retire him on a fly ball to center.

The Indians nevertheless extended their lead to 4-0 in the fifth when Jose Ramirez singled, advanced to third on two wild pitches — there were four that catcher Gary Sanchez couldn’t keep in front of him — and scored on a fly ball to center by Bruce.

It was the final dividend of the night.