CLEVELAND — After blowing the three-run lead they took into the seventh inning in an eventual loss to Toronto on Tuesday night, it seemed it would be a good long while before the Yankees topped that for worst loss of the season.
Cameron Maybin and Aaron Hicks saved them from topping it five days later.
After Tommy Kahnle and Adam Ottavino blew a five-run lead, and after Aroldis Chapman and Didi Gregorius teamed to blow a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, doubles by Maybin and Hicks in the 10th allowed the Yankees to escape with a 7-6 victory over the Indians on Sunday in front of 29,028 at Progressive Field.
“I was having a horrible game up until that point,” said Hicks, 0-for-4 with a walk before the go-ahead hit. “I was able to get a pitch to hit and actually put it in play. It felt great.”
The victory kept the Yankees (40-24) from being swept by the Indians, completed a 2-4 trip that started with a series loss to the Blue Jays and left them tied with the Rays for the AL East lead.
“It was,” Aaron Boone said with a smile, “a little bit different kind of a game.”
One that included a second bullpen implosion of the trip and a shocking error by Gregorius with two outs in the ninth, among other oddities.
Moments after that error allowed the Indians to tie the score, Maybin started the 10th-inning rally against lefthander Oliver Perez with a one-out double to center and scored on Hicks’ two-out double to left.
Stephen Tarpley, called up earlier in the day when Domingo German was put on the injured list with a left hip flexor strain, struck out the side in the bottom of the 10th to record his first career big-league save.
Tarpley, who made the club out of spring training but struggled, was so excited about the call-up that when he got in the car service in Scranton, he left his equipment bag, which contained his spikes and other items, on the curb there.
“There’s always nerves,” said Tarpley, the Yankees’ seventh pitcher of the day. “I’ve been kind of groomed to be a middle-inning guy, but I kept myself ready so when that 10th inning came around, I was stretched out. When they called me, I was ready to go. I really wanted to close it out.”
After Kahnle allowed four runs in the sixth, including a solo homer by Leonys Martin and a two-run shot by Mike Freeman, and Ottavino gave up a tying homer by Jake Bauers in the seventh on a 3-and-0 pitch, Luke Voit singled with one out in the ninth, Gary Sanchez doubled down the third-base line and Gleyber Torres was intentionally walked to load the bases. Facing sidearming righthander Adam Cimber, Clint Frazier fell behind 1-and-2 before lining a 3-and-2 pitch to center for a sacrifice fly and a 6-5 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, Chapman allowed a leadoff single by Jose Ramirez, threw the ball away on a pickoff attempt and walked Roberto Perez. Bauers bunted a soft liner to first baseman DJ LeMahieu, Kevin Plawecki flied out and Francisco Lindor grounded to short, but Gregorius — who had been inserted in the ninth for defense — whiffed on it with his glove. The ball ricocheted off his left knee and rolled into foul territory, allowing the Indians to tie it at 6-6.
“I tried to get an easy backhand setup for me [to throw to second], but it took a quick hop and it went into the outfield,” Gregorius said. “It was the worst feeling I can ever have. But I’m happy we won. That’s the main thing.”
With two outs and none on in the second — after Shane Bieber struck out four of the first five Yankees to face him -- the Yankees had eight straight batters reach base. Brett Gardner’s two-run homer, LeMahieu's RBI single (which lifted him to 27-for-54 with runners in scoring position) and Voit's two-run double to rightfield gave the Yankees a 5-0 lead that would not stand up.
“They got to Tommy, ambushed him on some heaters, but I’m not overly concerned with them,” Boone said of the bullpen. “Even the best of bullpens, which we feel like we have, you’re going to have days where you have a hiccup here and there. But confidence in that crew remains very high.”