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The Yankees said they were fired up, and they proved it.
The Yankees plated six runs in the bottom half of the second inning, including three on an error-filled inside-the-park home run from Dillon Harper, to take a 9-2 lead on the Indians, and never looked back.
“We were more fired up today,” Harper said. “We’re ready to win a championship, but the main priority is to play my best and have fun.”
The Yankees lost to the Indians just three days prior to Monday night’s first round playoff game, but came back with confidence at the plate and defense that Yankees manager Chip Chambers called the best of the year.
The defense started in the first inning for the Yankees. The Indians’ Bryndon Labhart reached base on a single after Cade Cotton popped up for the game’s first out. Yankees catcher Jesse Howard then gunned Labhart down trying to steal second base, and the Yankees had two outs with no men on. Just a couple pitches later the Indians’ Hayden Bright bombed a home run over the center field fence.
The Indians got the first run on the board, but Chambers was pleased it wasn’t two thanks to Howard’s throw to second.
“(Howard) threw an absolute strike to second base,” Chambers said. “If he doesn’t make that play, they have a runner in scoring position. That’s the difference between two runs and one run in the inning.”
The Yankees responded with some small ball in the bottom of the first. With Evan Flora on first and Colton Chambers on second, Harper laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance the men to second and third. Howard then roped a two-RBI double to center field to score both men and give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. Two batters later, Brandon Boggs hit a double of his own to score Howard.
Leading 3-2 going into the bottom of the second inning, both teams were seeing the opponents’ pitches well and making good contact with the ball. The difference for the Yankees continued to be their defense backing up their hitting, and good base running when at bat.
After a double from Colton Chambers scored Cannon Beasley to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead, Harper hit a long, and awkward inside-the-park home run. Harper’s hit was originally a single, but after the Indians threw home to try and get Colton Chambers out, Harper advanced to second base. The Indians’ throw to second base got away however, and Harper was able to round third and come home for the three-run, inside-the-park home run.
“It felt good when I hit it,” Harper said. “I give credit to Mike Hall, my hitting coach. He’s done a fabulous job.
“(With my base coaches) I don’t have to look at where the ball is, I can just keep my head down and run.”
With the bases loaded and a 7-2 lead, the Yankees continued with their aggressive base running. Kyler Campbell headed home from third base on a wild pitch, with Boggs heading to third base and Michael Estes to second.
The Indians throw to second base to try and gun down Estes allowed Boggs to then round third and head home for the inning’s sixth run and the Yankees lead grew to 9-2.
Harper took the mound with two outs down in the top of the third inning. Harper struck out three of the first four batters he faced, and was aided by a great catch by Campbell on a hard hit ball from Gunnison Coffey.
The Yankees plated one run in the bottom of the fourth inning to stretch the lead to 10-2, and then finished the game due to mercy rule on another two-RBI double from Howard to center field that scored Evan Flora from second, and Harper from first.
Chambers said the main difference he applies to playoff games, as opposed to regular season games, as a manger, is putting more emphasis on defense and perhaps more of a small ball approach at the plate.
“I’m going to be a little closer with the pitcher,” Chambers said. “I’m not going to let him walk two or three batters. There’s going to be more of an emphasis on defense and when we’re at the plate we might do some sacrifices or bunts to reach base.”
Huge second inning propels Mets to 17-5 win
Twelve runs in the second inning was enough for the Mets in a 17-5 win over the Rockies in the first round of the playoffs Monday night at MainSource Field.
“We usually follow up a good game with a bad game so I’m a little nervous about Thursday,” Mets manager Tommy Rice said with a laugh.
Recently, the Mets have been up and down in the scorer’s book. After getting no-hit against the Red Sox, the Mets scored 12 runs against the Cubs. Then lost the following day to the same Cubs team 6-4. Two days later, the Mets scored 17 runs in three innings at the plate, and will now play with a trip to the league championship on the line.
“I told them before the game, ‘Guys, there’s no tomorrow. You lose you go home. There’s no, hey, we’ll get them next game,’ ” Rice said.
After the game, Rice said he was nervous his team would overlook the Rockies.
“That’s why we threw our best pitcher,” Rice said. “Logan (Phillips) pitched good, John Paul (Garmon) came in relief and pitched good.”
The Mets will play the Yankees at 7:45 p.m. at Davenport Field in the semifinals of the postseason tournament. The Yankees lost the regular season series against the Mets 2-1.
E-mail Metz Camfield at firstname.lastname@example.org.