Gregorius sparks Yankees’ comeback victory

The Yankees showed signs of life Thursday night in a 5-4 victory over the Indians in the first game of a four-game series leading into the All-Star break. It represented a change on the trip in that the Yanks lost the series openers in both San Diego and Chicago to clubs inferior to Cleveland, which has a comfortable lead in the American League Central.

The Yankees went on to lose each series to the Padres and White Sox and would like nothing better than to reverse that against the Tribe and their formidable rotation. Former AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, who was named as a replacement pitcher on the AL All-Star squad, was to start Friday night against Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre call-up Chad Green, who pitched so well last Sunday in a 6-3 victory at San Diego that he replaced Nathan Eovaldi in the Yankees’ rotation.

The Yankees overcame a 2-0 deficit by striking in the middle innings with two runs in the fifth and three in the sixth against Trevor Bauer (7-3). Ivan Nova, who improved to 6-5, gave up solo home runs to Jason Kipnis and rookie Tyler Naquin in the third.

Didi Gregorius, who has been the Yankees’ most consistent hitter the past two months, began the comeback in the fifth with his 10th home run. Chase Headley and Rob Refsnyder followed with singles, and a two-out knock by Brett Gardner tied the score.

The same group chased Bauer in the sixth. One-out singles by Starlin Castro, Gregorius and Headley put the Yankees in front. A sacrifice fly by Rob Refsnyder and a two-out single by Jacoby Ellsbury increased the Yanks’ lead to 5-2.

The Indians were not finished at that point, however. It took the No Rums DMC unit of the bullpen to calm matter after the Tribe’s Carlos Santana and Kipnis laced doubles off Nova, who let in the second run of the inning with a wild pitch.

Dellin Betances finished that inning with two groundouts and withstood a two-out single and stolen base by Naquin in the seventh before Andrew Miller supplied a 1-2-3 eighth and Aroldis Chapman collected his 17th save by helping himself with a stretch at first base to take a throw from Castro for the final out. Indians manager Terry Francona challenged the umpire’s call, but it was upheld after a video review.

The Yankees are doing quite well in that element of the game. They successfully overturned both of their manager’s challenges Thursday night and have overturned two calls in three of their past six games, going 2-for-3 Wednesday at Chicago and 2-for-2 last Saturday at San Diego. Before to this stretch, the Yankees had lobbied twice in the same game on only one occasion since the review system was implemented for the 2014 season and were 1-for-2 April 14, 2014 at Toronto. The Yanks had not won two challenges in a game until this stretch.

Since June 28, the Yankees have overturned eight of their past nine replay challenges and 13-of-20 (65.0%) this season (three stands, four confirmed). From 2014-15, the Yankees had a major-league best 77.6% success rate on replay challenges (58 challenges, 45 overturned), leading the majors in success rate in both seasons.

With his 10th homer, Gregorius established a career high. His previous best was nine last year in 155 games, 70 more than the Yanks have played in ’16. Gregorius has homered in four of his past eight games. He has multiple hits in five of 10 games since June 27 and is hitting .381 with nine runs, three doubles, four homers, seven RBI and two stolen bases in 42 at-bats. Since June 14, Gregorius has produced a slash line of .369/.384/.655 with 18 runs, four doubles, one triple, six home runs, 18 RBI and three steals in 21 games and 84 at-bats to raise his season average 30 points to .296, its highest level since April 12 when he was hitting .333.

Gregorius is the fourth Yankees shortstop to hit at least 10HR before the All-Star break (since 1933, when the All-Star Game was first played). The others were Derek Jeter, who did it six times (1998-99, 2002, ‘04-05, ‘09), Roy Smalley (1983) and Frankie Crosetti (1936).

Gregorius is also one of five major-league shortstops hitting .290 or better with 10 home runs. The other four were all picked for the All-Star Game: the Indians’ Francisco Lindor, the Twins’ Eduardo Nunez, the Dodgers’ Corey Seager and the Giants’ Aledmys Diaz.

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