On Saturday, the formula did not favor the Indians. Especially when a couple of errors were added to the mix.
The Yankees hit four homers, including two by Gleybar Torres, to beat the Indians, 6-5, at Yankee Stadium. The Indians have lost four of their last five games and trail first-place Minnesota in the AL Central by two games. The Twins play Texas on Saturday night.
The Indians took a 2-0 lead in the first on Carlos Santana’s two-run single off lefty John Paxton. Francisco Lindor and Oscar Mercado set the table with a walk and a double. When Yasiel Puig followed Santana with a walk, it looked like the Indians were mounting another big first inning like they had Thursday when they scored seven runs on the way to a 19-5 win.
But Paxton (9-6, 4.53) retired the next three batters in a row.
“I thought we did a really good job against Paxton,” said manager Terry Francona. "He’s got really good stuff. As everybody they brought in did. But we scored, we fought back, which is a hard thing to do. We got it to even and gave up a solo homer right away.”
Mercado was back in the lineup after a two-day rest and his bat looked fine. He hit two doubles, but he also made two errors in left field.
Francona started him in left because he liked the way Greg Allen played center the first two games of the series. In the second inning, however, Mercado bobbled Mike Tauchman’s run-and-hit single that allowed Cameron Maybin to score from first.
“I just booted it,” said Mercado, regarding his first error. “I booted it and when I went to pick it up, I slipped. I’ve got to do a better job of being under control and not allowing that run to score.”
The Yankees tied the score, 2-2, in the third as Mercado made his second error in as many innings. DJ LeMahieu sent a two-out single to left with Thario Estrada on second. Estrada scored as LeMahieu went to second on Mercado’s off-line throw home.
New York took a 4-2 lead on consecutive homers by Didi Gregorius and Torres in the fourth. Rookie right-hander Zach Plesac retired the next three batters, but he wasn’t long for the game.
“Plesac only had one walk, but there were some deep counts," said Francona. “And their lineup, if you make a mistake, they’re not trying to shoot the hole between first and second, they’re trying to hit the Modell sign (a sign advertising a sporting goods store in the right field bleachers) and they do.”
Santana and Puig countered the two homers with consecutive RBI singles in the fifth off Paxton to tie it at 4. Santana singled home Lindor, who reached on a two-out double. Puig delivered Mercado, who reached on a walk.
The Yankees answered with two more homers to take a 6-4 lead. LeMahieu ended Plesac’s day with a two-out homer in the fifth. Plesac (6-4, 3.53) allowed five runs, four earned, in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out five and walked one.
“That’s a good lineup,” Plesac said. “I attacked the zone. Tried to be aggressive. I wasn’t going to shy away. I think I had a good approach. They drove the ball the other way. It was tough.”
Torres homered again in the sixth to make it 6-4. This time the victim was Nick Wittgren. After the homer, Maybin was called out on strikes. He was not happy with plate umpire Ben May and it caused a dust-up in front of the Yankee dugout. May ejected manager Aaron Boone and first base umpire Phil Cuzzi ejected CC Sabathia and center fielder Brett Gardner.
The Indians made it 6-5 with in the eighth. Puig doubled, took third on Jose Ramirez’s single and scored on a wild pitch by lefty Zach Britton. Francona had lefties Mike Freeman and Tyler Naquin on the bench but his only right-handed hitter was catcher Roberto Perez. He let Plawecki hit and an inning-ending double play resulted on a grounder to second.
Francona said he considered pinch-hitting Perez, his only right-handed hitter, but decided against it.
“I considered it,” Francona said. “For his health, I fought myself. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. He’s caught so much and he’s been so banged up, I thought he needed a day off.”
Perez has been playing on a sore right ankle since just before the All-Star break.
Aroldis Chapman closed the game in the ninth for his 35th save. Chapman, who retired the Indians in order, has eight saves in 16 career games against the Tribe.
The Indians out-hit the Yankees, 9-8, but none of them left the yard. At Yankee Stadium, bigger is almost always better. New York leads the big leagues with 46 homers in August and ranks second with 226 for the season.
The Indians and Yankees finish their season series on Sunday when right-hander Mike Clevinger (7-2, 3.34) faces New York’s Sabathia (5-6, 4.78) at 1:05 p.m. SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM will carry the game.
Clevinger, making his 13th start of the season, is coming off a no-decision against the Red Sox in which he allowed a career high 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings. Sabathia is coming off the injured list to make this start. Sabathia lost to the Tribe on June 8 at Progressive Field.