By HAL McCOY
It was a genius move by Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona in Game One of the American League Division Series when he started Trevor Bauer against the New York Yankees.
As it turned out, though, it was not a baseball Charles Einstein move when he brought back Bauer on only three days of rest for Game Four Monday night.
After shutting down the Yankees for 6 2/3 innings on no runs and four hits in Game One, Bauer was battered and beaten like a little red rented rowboat in the ocean in Game Four. He gave up four four runs and four hits in only 2 2/3 innings of high-pressure work.
The Yankees constructed an early five-run lead and this time they held on after blowing a five-run lead in Game Two and losing, 9-8, in 13 innings. This time they wobbled briefly in the middle innings, then moved away from the Tribe for a 7-3 victory.
After losing the first two games in this best of five series, the Yankees won the two games in New York to level proceedings, turning it into a one-game playoff Wednesday night in Cleveland — Cleveland 18-game winner Corey Kluber against New York’s CC Sabathia. It was the first time in 46 days that the Indians lost two games in a row after losing Game 3, 1.
While the Tribe’s Bauer was unable to survive on short rest, the Yankees started Luis Severino with an extra day of rest after he didn’t make it out of the first inning in the wild card game against the Minnesota.
Severino gave up four runs without recording an out in the wild card game against the Twins, but he went a nearly invincible seven against Cleveland — three runs, only four hits (two homers), one walk and nine strikeouts.
His average fastball on this night, pumped up by adrenaline, was 98.1 miles per hour.
Amazingly, a usually deft defense let the Tribe down. They made four errors, two by third baseman Giovanny Urshela and the first six Yankee runs were all unearned. But they earned them with timely hits.
The Yankees scored four runs in the second inning, all started when Starlin Castro lined one off Urshela’s leg that was ruled an error.
The Big Blast of the inning was provided by The Big Man, 6-foot-7 right fielder Aaron Judge. When he came to bat with two on in the second and the Yankees on top, 2-0, he was 0 for 11 with nine strikeouts in the series.
And Bauer had struck him out four straight times. After having Judge 0-and-2, Bauer went to 3-and-2 and Judge cleared the courtroom with a two-run line drive double off the left field wall for a 4-0 lead.
After Castro started the inning by reaching on Urshela’s error, he took second on a passed ball. Former Reds third baseman Todd Frazier then ripped one to left that crash landed on the foul line for a run-scoring double, his first RBI of the series. Then he scored on a single by Aaron Hicks.
That made it 2-0 and set it up for Judge’s jolt.
The Yankees pushed it to 5-0 in the third. With two outs and the bases loaded, Brett Gardner grounded routinely to Urshela for what should have been the third out. But his throw was high, pulling first baseman Carlos Santana off the bag and a run scored.
The Tribe finally figured out Severino, a little bit, and began a climb back. Jay Bruce, whose single in the second was the only hit off Severino through three innings, drew a full count walk in the fourth and Santana lined one into the right field seats, cutting the deficit to 5-2.
And it became 5-3 in the fifth when catcher Roberto Perez homered over the center field wall.
Severino took control again, though, and his 107th pitch in the seventh inning to strike out Lonnie Chisenhall was 100 miles an hour.
The Yankees added a sixth run, also unearned, when Frazier reached second base on pitcher Danny Salazar’s wild throw and Frazier boldly slid home on Brett Gardner’s shallow fly ball to center field.
The first New York earned run came in the sixth when Gary Sanchez homered to left field for a 7-3 Yankees lead.
Manager Joe Girardi replaced Severino in the eighth with wild-eyed and wild-armed Dellin Betances and he quickly walked the first two, forcing Girardi to remove him in favor of Tommy Kahnle.
Kahnle struck out Jason Kipnis, retired Jose Ramirez on a shallow fly to right and struck out Jay Bruce on a 91 miles an hour changeup, quickly dousing the uprising and preserving the four-run lead.
Kahnle pitched the ninth, too, and struck out the side as the Tribe produced only four hits for the night and struck out 14 times, five by Kahnle of the six batters he face.
Not only did Severino silence the Tribe, he saved the Yankee bullpen for the decisive Game Five while Cleveland’s Francona paraded eight pitchers to the mound, everybody in the bullpen except Andrew Miller.
The Yankees are the 76th team to lose the first two games of a five-game series. Only nine have come back to win. The Yankees are in position now to make it 10.