August 22, 2015, Bronx, N.Y.; Yankees 6, Indians 2 — On Saturday afternoon, the Yankees presented an early explosion of runs to a host of fans largely there to celebrate Jorge Posada Day on one of the nicest days in any year. With ceremonies starting about 12:20, the half hour began with Jorge and members of his family unveiling his retired number 20 and plaque in Monument Park, then continued as Jorge’s team members and Yankee officials gathered in the infield to give tribute.
With fans cheering lustily and breaking into yells of “Hip Hip, Jor-ge!”, the ex-catcher gave a warm and winning speech, thanking everyone. At one point poignantly referring to wishes the Posada family received when his young son was undergoing cranial surgery, he gave a callout to Indians player Mike Aviles, whose 4-year-old daughter Adriana is being treated for leukemia now. There was not a dry eye to be found.
But the game started as loudly as the early ceremonies had been, with rookie Luis Severino being reached for a one-out home run in the first, which was quickly answered by left fielder Brett Gardner and DH Brian McCann long balls for a 3-1 lead. Leadoff second-inning singles by second baseman Stephen Drew and catcher John Ryan Murphy were converted into runs, and fans basked in the glorious afternoon as the four-run lead held through seven innings.
Severino was spectacular, holding the Indians — who had dominated New York while winning four of five in the last two weeks — to just two more hits and no more runs while striking out six. The tall righthander walked one in the first and another in the third, then two more in the sixth, driving his pitch count up and ending his day at that point. Featuring 96-mph heat and a solid slider in the high 80s, he threw 18 of 25 first pitches for strikes, and had a strikes/balls ratio of 68/38, coaxing 10 swings and misses from Cleveland batters, seven of whom hit from the left side. The new kid on the block showed what he can do when his teammates score for him.
But although Luis’s work deserves the adjective “dominant,” and the game was played in as ideal conditions as imaginable, there were some weird twists and turns, highlighted by what took place in the top of the third. With runners on first and third and one down, DH Michael Brantley grounded to first. Rookie Greg Bird fired to shortstop Didi Gregorius, then took the return throw at first, where Brantley was called “safe.” Oddly, second baseman Jason Kipnis never broke from third and did not score. With Yankee fans [incorrectly, and unwisely] clamoring for replay at first base, Cleveland manager Terry Francona asked about the call at second. Did Bird’s throw pull Gregorius off the bag prematurely? Apparently, with no video review, the call was the “neighborhood play,” that Didi was allowed to leave a bit early to escape potential injury. A dissatisfied Francona was tossed from the game without ever requesting — or at least getting — video review and, once Severino struck out first baseman Carlos Santana, the inning ended with no score.
In a few other bizarre moments, Didi was credited with a double when Aviles lost his ball in the left field sun in the third; Gregorius threw from the seat of his pants to force catcher Roberto Perez at second base in the sixth; and Perez reached safely in the ninth when his ball took a high hop in front of the plate and over Chase Headley at third. And Francisco Lindor, who had homered in the first, reached second safely in the eighth when his grounder caromed off the third base bag. This led to the second Indians run, as two outs later Lonnie Chisenhall singled him home, a run equaled in the bottom half by Didi’s second double, a Drew infield single, and a Murphy sac fly.
The Yanks had also threatened in the seventh after Adam Warren had turned in a scoreless top half. Back-to-back, two-out singles set it up as Dellin Betances warmed for the eighth with the four-run lead. But as the home team threatened, he was joined by righthander Branden Pinder, setting up a scenario we’ll call the Pinder Protocol, or if you will, the Pinderic (not Pindaric) Ode. When the lead seemed about to grow to five runs, Pinder warmed, but did not enter the game once Bird struck out with the two on.
Likewise, with closer Andrew Miller warming in the eighth with the Yanks up now 6-2, Pinder got up again. With one run across, Jacoby Ellsbury singled to center, and Drew attempted to score from second. He was thrown out by one-time Yankee draftee Abraham Almonte. Again, Brandon got ready to pitch as the Yanks tried to go up by five, then sat down when they failed. Miller came on and closed the 6-2 win. By definition, the following refrain, my “ode,” is sung, the words directed to the hero, about to face the enemy:
With a lead of more than four,
Inning to come? It’s yours.
The Pinderic Ode