What result could this scenario possibly yield? Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton were a combined 0-for-8 with five strikeouts. Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez were given the day off. The Yankees seemed to be on idle and could not muster a baserunner until the fifth inning.
Maybe it was luck or karma or a combination of the two, but on Saturday, they continued on a streak not seen by the franchise in 20 years. They beat the Indians, 5-2, for their fifth straight victory and have won 14 of 15 for the first time since the 1998 World Series team that went 114-48.
The Yankees benefited from some Indians miscues and misfortune, but that wasn’t the only reason for this victory. After compiling a 7.71 ERA in his first five outings, a suddenly emerging Sonny Gray put together a second straight encouraging start.
“You get to throw once every fifth day and you see everyone is going out there,’’ Gray said, naming Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia. “Everyone is going out there and throwing the ball so well, you kinda want to keep the train going. So that also has a lot to do with it . . . I have a lot of confidence in myself. I’m a better pitcher than the first four or five starts. It took maybe a little bit of time to get there, but I trust my stuff. I know how good I am. I know it wasn’t going to be like that forever.’’
Said Aaron Boone, “He was good last time [in a 2-1 loss to the Astros]. I thought he did better than last time, so another really good step for him. His breaking ball was good, but I thought he worked really hard to establish his fastball. He had that look in his eye, even after the game talking to him. He felt really good about it. He feels like he’s almost where he’s back.’’
Gray’s fortunes seem to have coincided with Austin Romine becoming his catcher. “I trust that guy completely,’’ Gray said. “Knowing whatever he [signals], shaking your head yes and throwing with conviction. That’s what I’ve tried to do the last couple of games for sure.’’
Gray pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third and matched four scoreless innings with the Indians’ Trevor Bauer. But with two outs in the fifth, Francisco Lindor hit Gray’s 3-and-2 pitch over the right-centerfield wall for a 1-0 lead.
Same old Gray? No. He went six innings, allowing two runs, four hits and two walks with seven strikeouts to even his record at 2-2.
Bauer retired the first 13 Yankees but suddenly lost control in the fifth. With one out, he walked Neil Walker and Miguel Andujar, and Gleyber Torres singled to center for the Yankees’ first hit to load the bases. Austin Romine then drew an eight-pitch walk, tying the score at 1.
Bauer got Ronald Torreyes to hit a potential inning-ending double-play grounder to short, but Lindor committed two errors on the play, bobbling the ball and then throwing it wildly past third as two runs scored. It was the third error in two games for the 2016 Gold Glove winner.
“What I’m thinking is put the ball in play,’’ Torreyes said through his interpreter. “Make sure I put the ball in play and I did. He made that error on that play which worked out in our favor. Putting the ball in play in that situation actually gave us a couple of runs. That’s baseball. Sometimes things like that happen. It happened to him this time.’’
That put runners on second and third, and Torreyes then made a mistake of his own that nearly cost the Yankees a run. He tried to go from second to third on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly to left and appeared to be tagged out by Jose Ramirez a split-second before Romine touched home. Torreyes, however, was called safe, and the Indians, who seemed undecided in the dugout, did not ask for a review.
“I was trying to be aggressive on that play,’’ Torreyes said. “I wanted to get a big jump. I went to third on that play and the umpire called safe. To me, I’m paying attention to the umpire. He called it safe, so that’s what I’m paying attention to.’’
At that point, the Yankees had four runs and one hit in both the inning and the game.
Romine doubled to deep right-center in the seventh — Indians centerfielder Bradley Zimmer smashed into the Yankees’ bullpen while trying to catch the drive and had to leave the game — and scored on Gardner’s two-out single for a 5-2 lead.