By HAL McCOY
The Cleveland Indians planned to party like it was 1948, but the New York Yankees forced them to put away the party favors.
The Tribe hoped to win their first World Series since 1948, but they not only didn’t even make the World Series, they didn’t make the American League Championship Series.
After losing the first two games of the best-of-five American League Division Series, the resilient Yankees came back to win the next three games, sending the Tribe home for the winter Wednesday night with a 5-2 victory in Cleveland’s Progressive Field.
The main characters in ending Cleveland’s season were shortstop Mariekson Julius Gregorius and starting pitcher CC Sabathia.
Gregorius homered his first two times at bat against Indians ace Corey Kluber to drive in three runs. Sabathia, originally a No. 1 draft pick by the Indians, returned to his old venue and put a tight stopper on his old team for four innings.
He held the Tribe to no runs and one hit and struck out nine for 4 1/3 innings. Gregorius gave him a 3-0 lead going into the fifth but the Indians spliced together four straight one-out singles for two runs and Yankee manager Joe Girardi went to his bullpen.
And you can add Yankee bullpenners David Robertson and former Reds closer Aroldis Chapman to the major contributors list.
Robertson put a tourniquet on the bleeding by getting Francisco Lindor to roll into an inning-ending double play. He pitched 2 2/3 innings and gave up nothing but a harmless walk.
Chapman took over in the eighth to protect the 3-2 lead and pitched a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts. When the Yankees scored two in the top of the ninth, Chapman returned to mound after a 28-minute wait in the dugout.
He walked Jose Ramirez to open the ninth. He struck out former Reds third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, got a fielder’s choice and then struck out Austin Jackson to finish it off with a Chapman-like flair.
Gregorius goes by Didi but his real nickname is Sir Didi. He was born in The Netherlands and was signed by the Cincinnati Reds. He played eight games in 2012, but the Reds decided their shortstop was Zack Cozart.
So they traded Gregorius before the 2013 season to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a complicated three-team deal. The Reds also sent Drew Stubbs to Cleveland. The Tribe also received pitchers Trevor Bauer and Bryan Shaw from the D-Backs. The Reds? They received outfielder Shin-Soo Choo (who left after one year via free agency), Jason Donald and cash. Donald, a utility infielder, is out of baseball and the Reds long ago spent the cash.
And while Gregorius is quickly making Yankee fans almost forget Derek Jeter, the Reds figure to lose Cozart this winter to free agency. Gregorius and Cozart had eerily similar statistics this year. Gregorius hit .287 with 25 homers and 87 RBI. Cozart hit .297 with 24 home runs and 63 RBI.
Gregorius opened the scoring with a two-out solo home run in the first and followed that with a two-run shot in the third, both homers off Kluber. After lasting only 2 2/3 innings in Game 2, Kluber made it through only 3 2/3 innings in Game 5.
So it was 3-0 when the Tribe came to bat in the fifth. With one out, Cleveland’s Austin Jackson, former Reds outfielder Jay Bruce, Roberto Perez and Giovanny Urshela all singled for two runs.
And that’s the way it stayed until the top of the ninth when two more Tribe errors led to two runs. Cleveland, the American League’s best defensive team, made six errors in the last two games.
It started with a single by Aaron Hicks and he took second when left fielder Austin Jackson bobbled the ball. With one out, former Reds third baseman Todd Frazier fell behind 0-and-2 then worked a walk out of Cody Allen.
Then came an incredible at bat by Brett Gardner, a 12-pitch effort that ended with a live drive single to right that scored one run and Frazier scored when Jay Bruce’s throw from the outfield evaded shortstop Francisco Lindor to make it 5-2.
All that was left was for Chapman to do his thing and he did it by catching Austin Jackson with a called third strike, rendering those 102 regular season victories by the Tribe as a footnote to the 2017 season.