CLEVELAND — It is, admittedly, not an especially long register if you’re putting together a list of most impressive victories of this Yankees season. Still, Thursday night’s 5-4 win over the Indians at Progressive Field certainly is in the running for the top spot.
The Yankees came back to win, something they haven’t done particularly memorably in 2016, did so against a top-flight pitcher, another rarity, and, to boot, did it against one of baseball’s hottest and best teams.
“They just kept at it,” Joe Girardi said of his club. “It’s an impressive win.”
One secured on a replay challenge on the final play of the game, which resulted in an overturn.
On Aroldis Chapman’s 28th pitch of the ninth inning, with runners on first and second and two outs, Tyler Naquin grounded a shot that appeared ticketed for rightfield. But after Mark Teixeira dived to his right and knocked it down to save a run, the ball dribbled toward Starlin Castro, who picked it up and threw to Chapman covering.
Despite a first baseman-like stretch by Chapman, who nearly did a split, Naquin was ruled safe by umpire Tom Hallion, which would have loaded the bases. But the call was overturned.
“Yeah, I thought it was by him,” Chapman said through his translator, referring to Naquin’s shot toward Teixeira.
Of the play at first, he said: “That’s the kind of play, if you execute, it shouldn’t be that difficult.”
His teammates felt otherwise, lauding the lefthander’s athleticism to not only glide over in time but to find the base on the run and take Castro’s throw.
“That’s a tough play,” Castro said. “Not every pitcher can make that play.”
Added Teixeira: “There’s not many pitchers that will make that play.”
The Yankees also won a replay challenge that nullified an out at the plate and allowed Castro to score the run (on Chase Headley’s broken-bat RBI single) that gave them a 3-2 lead and ignited a three-run sixth.
Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Chapman pitched 3 2⁄3 scoreless innings, although Betances allowed one of Ivan Nova’s runs to score in the sixth, which made it 5-4.
“I hadn’t used them in three days, and that’s why I asked them to get us 11 outs tonight,” Girardi said of the trio. “I felt like it was an important game.”
Trailing 2-0 against Trevor Bauer, who came in 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA in his previous seven starts and who did not allow a hit until the fourth, the Yankees scored twice in the fifth and went ahead for good in the sixth.
Bauer allowed a season-worst five runs in 5 2⁄3 innings as he fell to 7-3, 3.30 for the Indians (51-34), who came in having won 16 of 19 and 25 of 34.
Nova (6-5) allowed four runs and five hits, including third-inning homers by Naquin and Jason Kipnis, in 5 1⁄3 innings.
Betances pitched a scoreless seventh — barely. With two outs, Naquin singled and stole second. Betances then struck out pinch hitter Abraham Almonte, but the curveball got away from Brian McCann and went to the screen. As Naquin steamed around third and came across the plate, McCann just nipped Almonte at first, with Teixeira scooping the ball out of the dirt, for the third out.
“That was a big play, too,” Teixeira said. “That’s not an easy throw from back there. It’s a do-or-die scoop. I know if I come off the bag and just try to catch it, the run scores. That’s kind of my main job over there at first base, catch the ball. Made a good play on it.”
The Yankees tied the score at 2-2 in the fifth. Didi Gregorius, 29-for-80 with five homers in his previous 20 games, hit his career-high 10th homer to make it 2-1. Headley and Rob Refsnyder had back-to-back singles and, after Jacoby Ellsbury popped out for the second out, Brett Gardner sent a 1-and-2 pitch back up the middle for an RBI single that tied it at 2.
The Yankees knocked out Bauer in the sixth, getting three straight hits by Castro, Gregorius and Headley, the latter of which brought in Castro, who initially was called out at the plate before the call was overturned. Refsnyder’s sacrifice fly made it 4-2 and, after Terry Francona brought in lefthander T.J. House, Ellsbury singled to make it 5-2.