The Yankees weren’t any happier with Sunday’s plate umpire than they were with Saturday’s. But there was no victory Sunday to provide a small measure of levity.
CC Sabathia wasn't very sharp in his return from the injured list and Indians starter Mike Clevinger struck out 10 in five scoreless innings in the Yankees' 8-4 loss to Cleveland on a steamy afternoon at the Stadium in front of 45,682.
“Hopefully he can go out and give us a handful of really good innings,” Aaron Boone had said of Sabathia before the game. But he did not, allowing four runs, four hits and three walks in three innings in which the damage could have been far worse.
Still, Boone and Sabathiawere more encouraged than discouraged.
“I felt there was enough good in the front end and the back end of it,” Boone said. “More today was just not being as built up, so it was more of a day where we got three innings out of him, weren’t going to go much more than 60, 70 pitches with him, so it’s a step for him along the way that hopefully gets him back in the groove.”
Sabathia (5-7, 5.01), who struck out the side in the third, mostly lamented the hanging slider that Mike Freeman drove into the Yankees' bullpen for a three-run homer that made it 4-0 in the second.
“Just a bad pitch, just hung up there, like a real hanger,” said Sabathia, who has allowed 25 homers in 93 1/3 innings this season. “And I’ve been doing that a lot this year to the lefties, way too much.”
He did say, however, that “I feel like it’s something I can build off of.”
After splitting the four-game series with the Indians (74-51), a potential opponent come October, the Yankees (83-43) are off Monday before starting a nine-game, three-city trip Tuesday night in Oakland against the A’s, who are 21-12 since the All-Star break. The Yankees are 3 1/2 games ahead of the Astros in the battle for the American League's best record and one game ahead of the Dodgers -- whom they will play next weekend -- for the best record in the majors.
DJ LeMahieu’s 21st homer, a two-run shot to rightfield off righthander Hunter Wood with one out in the seventh, made it 6-2, but Oscar Mercado’s two-run homer off Luis Cessa in the eighth pushed the lead back to six runs.
LeMahieu’s RBI single and Aaron Judge’s RBI double against Brad Hand made it 8-4 with one out in the ninth. After pulling into second, Judge mimicked the bat-into-dugout-ceiling motion that got Brett Gardner ejected by Phil Cuzzi on Saturday, the second time Judge made that motion after a hit in a show of support for his teammate. But Hand struck out Didi Gregorius and got Gio Urshela to fly to deep left to end it.
Sabathia also was ejected on Saturday by Cuzzi, who had the plate Sunday. He worked out of trouble in the first, helped by Urshela’s throw to the plate to cut down Mercado. The inning also was noteworthy in that Sabathia and Boone, who had been tossed Saturday by plate umpire Ben May, expressed some displeasure with Cuzzi’s strike zone.
“I don’t want to talk about that, sorry,” Sabathia said.
But two ground-ball singles, a sacrifice bunt and a high throw to the plate by Gregorius -- who was playing back -- on Greg Allen's grounder produced a run in the second. Three pitches later, Freeman made it 4-0, and with two outs, Sabathia issued three straight walks on 13 pitches before striking out Franmil Reyes to escape the inning.
Francisco Lindor homered to rightfield just over the leaping Judge in the fourth and Mercado had an RBI single in the sixth.
Clevinger (8-2, 3.11), allowed three hits in his five innings. The righthander is among the reasons the Indians are surging and could be a tough out come October.
“Hard-fought series,” Judge said. “We ended 2-2 [in the series]. Would have liked to have won all four, but that’s a good ballclub over there that we’ll probably see down the road. Those are fun. Those are series you like to play in.”