Yankees complete comeback vs. Indians; Nationals force Game 5

Aaron Judge puts up a number one with his finger to signify victoryThe New York Yankees were down when they trailed the Cleveland Indians 2-0 in their ALDS series, but they weren’t out. The American League wild-card winner rallied to win two at home and capped the series on Wednesday with a 5-2 victory in Cleveland, securing a spot against the Houston Astros in the ALCS.

The Indians appeared in control after the opening two games but their offense dried up after producing 13 runs in Games 1 and 2. CC Sabathia kept Cleveland at bay for nearly five innings on Wednesday, striking out nine and giving the Yankees enough time to build a lead they would not relinquish off of two home runs by Didi Gregorius. Aroldis Chapman closed the series with a two-inning save, wrapping things up after New York added a couple insurance runs against Indians closer Cody Allen.

For Cleveland, the result is a setback one year after coming within a game of winning the World Series. The Indians emerged as a front-runner in the American League after a slow start to the 2017 season, and their record 22-game win streak seemed to motivate their fans to believe the team had another lengthy postseason run in it, but it wasn’t to be. For New York, Wednesday was yet another triumph for a largely young team defying expectations. The youthful nucleus of the Yankees’ offense—Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Greg Bird—all played key roles in the series, combining for five home runs and 11 RBI.

In the National League, The Washington Nationals benefitted from an important home run—the first postseason grand slam in franchise history—on Wednesday to force a decisive Game 5 against the Chicago Cubs. Michael Taylor cleared the bases with one swing in the eighth inning, increasing Washington’s lead to a more-comfortable five runs after nursing a one-run lead since the third. Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg kept the Cubs at bay with seven nearly flawless innings, striking out 12 and scattering three hits. Chicago countered with a combination of starters Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, but neither could completely contain the back half of Washington’s batting order.

The Nationals’ win moved the series back to Washington for Game 5 on Thursday, where they will have a chance for the franchise’s first postseason series victory since moving from Montreal. Washington is 0-3 in the NLDS and appeared to be heading to 0-4 before a rain delay on Tuesday allowed Strasburg to start Game 4 on an extra day of rest. The defending-champion Cubs were the ones delivering dominant pitching performances in Games 1 and 3, and their Game 1 starter Kyle Hendricks will have a chance to repeat his performance on Thursday. Washington’s hitters will need to solve Hendricks for the team to have any hope of facing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS.