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Indians take 2-0 ALDS lead, and it’s all on Joe Girardi

The Yankees scored six runs against the eventual AL Cy Young winner. Then they and Joe Girardi wasted it all.

Divisional Round - New York Yankees v Cleveland Indians - Game Two Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Yankees looked like they were going to head back to New York with the American League Division Series all evened up. Corey Kluber, who is the best pitcher in the American League (if not in baseball, with Clayton Kershaw’s back now apparently something to consider at all times), gave up six runs and just 2-2/3 innings. That was a gift — one earned by the Yankees, but also squandered by them. Now, Cleveland heads to New York up 2-0, and able to clinch on Sunday with Carlos Carrasco on the mound.

It’s not CC Sabathia’s fault: The former Indians’ ace returned to Progressive Field and limited Cleveland to two earned runs and three hits over 5-1/3 frames. He retired 11 in a row, walked Carlos Santana, sat Jay Bruce down, and then, Joe Girardi lifted his starter. Sabathia had thrown just 77 pitches, but Girardi wanted to play matchups with the right-handed Austin Jackson coming to the plate.

Jackson was retired by Chad Green, but then Yan Gomes doubled to put a second runner on. Then, as Grant Brisbee has already detailed, Girardi made his second serious blunder by not challenging a hit by pitch call to Lonnie Chisenhall that would have been a foul-tip third strike and the end of the threat, and preserved New York’s 8-3 lead.

Francisco Lindor was up next, and Francisco Lindor hit a grand slam. It was then 8-7 New York, but it felt like Cleveland was already in the lead. They would tie it with a Bruce dinger later off of David Robertson — both players mid-season trade acquisitions for their teams — and then the two clubs would remain in a scoreless reliever-and-Josh-Tomlin-too duel until Yan Gomes hit the game-winner, a shot down the third base line.

Not to belabor the whole Girardi screwup thing, but Harold Reynolds spoke at length about it in the postgame show, and made a whole bunch of sense doing so. Harold Reynolds, y’all. Girardi, in his postgame presser, said they didn’t see anything that showed Chisenhall wasn’t hit, but Gary Sanchez signaled he wasn’t hit, so this is on Girardi for not trusting his backstop’s word and just challenging in the off chance he knew what he was talking about.

It wasn’t all perfection and poetry for Cleveland, as they lost Edwin Encarnacion to an injury early, replacing him at designated hitter with Michael Brantley. Encarnacion very well could play in Game 3, but he sprained his ankle and had to be helped off of the field because of it, so it’s just as possible Game 3 (and Game 4 and Game 5, if necessary) are out of the question.