NEW YORK | Good thing for Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees that Aaron Judge is 6-foot-7.
Judge reached high and prevented a home run to save Tanaka’s seven-inning gem, Greg Bird homered off relief ace Andrew Miller, and New York edged the Cleveland Indians 1-0 Sunday night in Game 3 to extend their AL Division Series.
“He was brilliant,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said about Tanaka. “He gave us everything we needed.”
Aroldis Chapman got a five-out save as the wild-card Yankees avoided a three-game sweep by the defending AL champions. With two on in the ninth, Chapman struck out cleanup hitter Jay Bruce before Carlos Santana flied out to end it.
Game 4 is Monday night at Yankee Stadium, with young ace Luis Severino scheduled to start for New York. Cleveland will go with Game 1 winner Trevor Bauer on three days’ rest, though there’s rain in the forecast.
“I consider this normal rest for me. I enjoy pitching on short (rest),” Bauer said. “If I could draw it out, personally, this is how I’d pitch every time.”
New York got a splendid performance from Tanaka in an old-fashioned October pitching duel with Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco. Tanaka received a big boost when Judge robbed Francisco Lindor of a two-run homer in the sixth.
Bird — a graduate of Aurora’s Grandview High School — came through with the huge hit New York had to have when he connected against Miller leading off the seventh. The first baseman was fired up as he greeted happy teammates in the dugout.
Sidelined by injuries most of the past two seasons, Bird also went deep in Game 2.
“I’m not ready to be done playing and I don’t think the rest of the team is,” he said.
New York rebounded after blowing a five-run lead Friday during a 13-inning loss in Game 2 that led to heavy criticism of Girardi, booed Sunday night by the home crowd during pregame introductions.
“Not the first time,” Girardi said, acknowledging it’s no fun to hear catcalls. “I kind of expected it.”
This was the Yankees’ first 1-0 postseason victory since Game 3 of their 2001 ALDS against Oakland, when Derek Jeter’s backhanded flip beat Jeremy Giambi to the plate for a crucial, memorable out.
Judge’s grab was the big defensive play Sunday. With a runner on first in a scoreless game, Lindor lofted a sixth-inning drive toward the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium. Judge backed up to the wall and barely needed to jump to extend his glove above the fence and make the catch, just to the right of the auxiliary scoreboard.
“Who better to reach up there and grab it than him?” Bird said.
The sellout crowd of 48,614 roared and Judge flashed a bright smile. It was the first time the rookie slugger had robbed an opponent of a home run and the first time Lindor had ever been so denied, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
“I had to do something,” said Judge, who is 0 for 10 with eight strikeouts in the series. “I wasn’t obviously making any contact at the plate, so you’ve got to make an impact on the game somehow and luckily I was able to do it on defense.”
Bird joined Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger as the only left-handed hitters to homer off Miller this season. “Just threw the wrong pitch in the wrong spot,” Miller said. “It stinks. I mean, I’m the guy who lost the game.”