CLEVELAND — It was the kind of big hit that has eluded the Yankees during much of the season’s first half.
With two outs and a man on first in the top of the 11th inning Saturday, Brian McCann lined a double to right to drive in what proved to be the winning run in a 7-6 victory over the Indians in front of 32,951 at Progressive Field.
“I was sitting on a pitch [a fastball] and I got it,” said McCann, who delivered the hit off Tommy Hunter.
But he quickly added: “A lot of big things happened today.”
That’s an understatement. Starting in reverse there was, to name a few, Carlos Beltran starting the rally with a single and Joe Girardi inserting Ronald Torreyes as a pinch runner. Torreyes ran “like a gazelle” from first on McCann’s double, in Didi Gregorius’ words.
There was Aroldis Chapman, who stranded runners at first and second after coming on with two outs in the ninth, pitched a perfect 10th and added a scoreless 11th to earn the victory.
Before Chapman’s 2 1⁄3 innings, Girardi called on Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller to give him 1 1⁄3 and 1 2⁄3 innings, respectively. None of the three will be available for Sunday’s finale, which made getting the victory even more significant.
“What they’re doing is incredible,” McCann said. “To pitch multiple innings and do it nightly is incredible.”
Girardi said that had the Yankees not taken the lead, Chasen Shreve would have gone out for the 11th.
McCann and Beltran each had three of the Yankees’ 14 hits. Gregorius’ tiebreaking two-run homer on an 0-and-2 pitch with two outs in the third and Brett Gardner’s three-run triple to leftfield with two outs in the sixth, which gave the Yankees a 6-5 lead, had been the team’s offensive highlights before the 11th.
Given the way the bizarre game went, naturally, there was some moderate drama in the bottom of the 11th. Chapman walked Jason Kipnis but got Francisco Lindor (three hits) to fly to right and picked off Kipnis, who took off for second before Chapman delivered to the plate.
“McCann called for it,” Chapman said through his translator, referring to the throw to first.
McCann, in turn, credited first-base coach Tony Peña. “Perfect timing,” McCann said.
Chapman then struck out Mike Napoli to end it.
Betances replaced CC Sabathia, who allowed five runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings, in the sixth and struck out Rajai Davis. He nearly got out of a first-and-third, one-out jam in the seventh, striking out Carlos Santana and getting ahead of Jose Ramirez 0-and-2, but he then hung a curveball and Ramirez (three hits, three RBIs) singled to tie it at 6-6.
Indians starter Danny Salazar, who came in 10-3 with a 2.36 ERA, allowed eight hits in 5 2⁄3 innings. He wound up being charged with six runs when Dan Otero (who entered the game with a 1.32 ERA) allowed three inherited runners to score on Gardner’s triple on a 1-and-2 pitch.
In the ninth, Francisco Lindor singled against Miller after fouling off six straight pitches and Napoli walked with none out. Santana then hit a chopper to short and Gregorius lost the ball as he attempted to barehand it. But as Lindor ran to third, he collided with Chase Headley, who also was pursuing the grounder, and was called out by third-base umpire Tom Hallion for interference. That put runners on first and second with one out. Miller struck out Ramirez and Chapman struck out Juan Uribe to escape the jam.
The Yankees (43-44) will send Masahiro Tanaka to the mound Sunday afternoon as they try to take three of four from the AL Central-leading Indians (52-35) and pull into the All-Star break as a .500 team.
“It was a good one to get,” Sabathia said of the victory. “That’s a good team over there. For us to battle back the way we did, scoring runs against Salazar . . . That was a good team effort.”