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Didi Gregorius homers twice, powering Yankees into ALCS with 5-2 win over Indians

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Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius stole the show during Game 5 of the ALDS against the Indians on Wednesday, helping power the Yankees into the ALCS with a 5-2 win in Cleveland.

Gregorius started the scoring early, ripping a solo home run to right field with two outs in the top of the first inning off of Indians starter Corey Kluber. Gregorius reprised that role in the third, yanking a two-run home run to right field to push the Yankees’ lead to 3-0. He’s the first Yankee with a two-homer playoff game since Raul Ibanez in the 2012 ALDS against the Orioles.

Kluber exited after 3 2/3 innings. He walked Jacoby Ellsbury with two outs, so Indians skipper Terry Francona brought in reliever Andrew Miller. Miller fanned Todd Frazier to exit the inning. Kluber’s final line: three runs on three hits and two walks with six strikeouts.

The Indians finally put together a rally in the bottom of the fifth as Austin Jackson, Jay Bruce, Roberto Perez, and Giovanny Urshela each singled consecutively against starter CC Sabathia to score two runs, making it a 3-2 ballgame. That ended Sabathia’s night. David Robertson came in and got Francisco Lindor to ground into an inning-ending double play. Sabathia’s final line: two runs on five hits with no walks and nine strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings.

Robertson stayed in for the seventh, working around a two-out walk of Jay Bruce for a scoreless frame. Aroldis Chapman got the eighth, retiring the side in order with a pair of strikeouts.

The Yankees tacked on insurance for Chapman in the top of the ninth as Aaron Hicks singled and reached second on a fielding error by Jackson in left field with one out. Todd Frazier drew a two-out walk. Then, after an 11-pitch battle between Cody Allen and Brett Gardner, Gardner won by lining the 12th pitch for a single into right field, scoring Hicks. Jay Bruce threw to shortstop and cut-off man Lindor, but the ball bounced in front of him and skipped away, which let Gardner score to push the Yankees’ lead to 5-2.

In the bottom of the ninth, Chapman worked around a leadoff walk of Jose Ramirez by striking out Edwin Encarnacion, getting Carlos Santana to ground into a fielder’s choice, and Jackson to strike out looking. The Yankees defeated last year’s American League champions and are back in the ALCS for the first time since 2012 when they were swept by the Tigers.

The 2017 ALCS begins on Friday at 8 PM ET with the Yankees taking on the Astros in Houston.

Sheldon Ocker named winner of the 2018 J.G. Taylor Spink Award

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The Baseball Writers Association of America has named Sheldon Ocker the winner of the 2018 J.G. Taylor Spink Award. He will be honored with the award that is presented annually to a sportswriter “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing” during Hall of Fame inductions in Cooperstown on July 29.

Ocker began covering the Indians for the Akron Beacon Journal in 1981 and did so until 2013, when he retired. He was national president of the BBWAA in 1985 and served as chair of the Cleveland Chapter 11 times. He named Ohio Sports Writer of the Year in 1997 and 2000 by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.