Yankees' manager Aaron Boone, over the course of his life in baseball, has both played in and witnessed countless unforgettable games.
After watching his team mount multiple comebacks, including two runs in the top of the ninth inning in a series-clinching 10-9 victory over the Indians, Boone said Wednesday night's contest is right at the top of his all-time list.
"That game was a lot of fun to be a part of," Boone said, allowing a smile to creep across his lips. "I'm 47 years old and I've watched a lot of baseball ... I don't know how you top that one. The back and forth and just the amount of big moments and plays by different guys."
The Yankees' win wrapped up a two-game sweep in Cleveland, punching the Bombers' ticket on to the American League Division Series.
Wednesday night's marathon lasted four hours and fifty minutes and that's not even including 76 minutes of rain delays. That's good for the longest nine-inning game in Major League Baseball history.
As the clock struck midnight at Progressive Field, with calendars flipping from September to October, the Yankees rose to the occasion. New York scored two runs off Indians closer Brad Hand in the top of the ninth, including a game-tying sacrifice fly from catcher Gary Sánchez one batter before a go-ahead RBI single from infielder—and AL batting title winner—DJ LeMahieu.
The Bombers shut the door in the bottom half of the final frame with Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, who earned the win by nailing down the final six outs, on the mound.
"Tonight just had that feeling that these guys weren't going to be denied," Boone said. "They weren't going to lose and they just kept scratching, kept crawling, Cleveland kept answering. We were finally able to outlast them."
Hand had led all of Major League Baseball during the regular season with 16 saves, converting on all 16 of his save opportunities. After loading the bases with no outs, Sánchez's sacrifice fly to center field tied the score and tagged the left-hander with his first blown save of the year.
LeMahieu stepped in after Sánchez and did what he does best, coming through with a runner in scoring position. His dribbler up the middle snuck through the infield, scoring Gio Urshela from second base to give the Bombers a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Cleveland had put up a fight all night as the lead changed hands several times over the course of Wednesday night's roller coaster.. Urshela's go-ahead grand slam in the fourth had the Yankees in business, wiping away the deficit left by right-hander Masahiro Tanaka.
"That was the one of the best games I've ever played in my life," Urshela said. "That was a great game fighting. We got a couple delays, but the team always stayed positive, focused and everybody had the same goal."
The Indians stormed back in the fifth as AL MVP candidate José Ramirez roped a two-run double to right.
The Indians came back once again in the seventh, following a Sánchez two-run home run to the opposite field in the previous frame. A pinch-hit, two-run double from outfielder Jordan Luplow off right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga tied the score before second baseman César Hernández gave the Indians a late lead with a bloop single in the eighth.
With the win, the Yankees survive and advance to a date with a familiar foe in the ALDS. New York will take on the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays—who also swept their opening round opponent—in a best-of-five series starting next week.
The Yankees may have gone 2-8 against Tampa Bay during the regular season, but after scoring 22 runs in two games during the opening round, it's easier to look ahead and stay positive.
"Winning record, losing record, I forgot about it," Sánchez said through the Yankees interpreter. "That regular season chapter has been closed. Now it's like I said before it's about playing these games in the playoffs where we're two teams that are going to compete and are going to want the same thing. And when it comes to that, I believe in my team. I believe in our chances."
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