Masahiro Tanaka’s seven-inning gem was saved when Aaron Judge prevented a home run in right field, and Greg Bird homered to give the New York Yankees a 1-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 3 on Sunday night, extending their AL Division Series.
Aroldis Chapman got a five-out save as New York avoided a three-game sweep by the defending AL champions. With two on in the ninth, Chapman struck out cleanup hitter and former Reds teammate Jay Bruce, and Carlos Santana flied out to center.
The Yankees got a splendid performance from Tanaka in an old-fashioned October pitching duel with Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco. Tanaka got a boost when Judge robbed Francisco Lindor of a two-run homer in the sixth.
Bird came through with the huge hit New York had to have when he connected against loser Andrew Miller in the seventh.
New York rebounded from a bruising loss Friday in Game 2 that led to heavy criticism of manager Joe Girardi, booed Sunday night by the home crowd during pregame introductions.
Game 4 is Monday night at Yankee Stadium, with young ace Luis Severino scheduled to start for New York. Cleveland might go with Game 1 winner Trevor Bauer on three days’ rest.
Cleveland had won six straight ALDS games, one shy of the 2009-11 Yankees for the best such streak ever.
This was the Yankees’ first 1-0 postseason victory since Game 3 of their 2001 ALDS against Oakland, when Derek Jeter’s backhanded flip beat Jeremy Giambi to the plate for a crucial, memorable out.
Judge’s grab was the big defensive play Sunday. With a runner on first in a scoreless game, Lindor lofted a sixth-inning drive toward the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium. Judge backed up to the wall with his 6-foot-7 frame and barely needed to jump to extend his glove above the fence and make the catch, just to the right of the auxiliary scoreboard.
The sellout crowd of 48,614 roared and Judge flashed a bright smile. It was the first time the rookie had robbed an opponent of a home run and the first time Lindor had ever been so denied, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Tanaka tipped his cap in appreciation and held Cleveland down until he was done. The right-hander, beaten 3-0 by Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros in the 2015 AL wild-card game, struck out seven, walked one and allowed three hits. He whiffed three of his first four batters and was aided by two double plays.
The biggest test for Tanaka came in the fourth, after Jason Kipnis’ one-out triple glanced off the thumb of Judge’s glove in deep right field and rolled away. Tanaka beared down and fanned No. 3 batter Jose Ramirez and Bruce, then turned to shout and slapped his glove in excitement.
Bruce struck out four times batting fourth in place of injured slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who sat out after leaving Game 2 with a sprained right ankle. Michael Brantley filled in for Encarnacion as the designated hitter.
Tasked with extending the Yankees’ season, Tanaka delivered under pressure in his second career playoff start. After going 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA during an inconsistent season, he was pitching on eight days’ rest but looked plenty sharp. In his previous outing, he struck out a career-high 15 over seven scoreless innings in his final regular-season start against Toronto.
Carrasco matched Tanaka into the sixth.
The right-hander, who was 11-2 with a 2.65 ERA in 17 road starts this season, gave up three hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings. Also helped by two double plays, he struck out seven and was lifted with the bases loaded.
Miller retired Starlin Castro on a popup to end the inning.