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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.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.