Two home runs from Didi Gregorius provided the early spark in a decisive Game 5 of the AL Division Series as the New York Yankees eliminated the hometown Cleveland Indians and advanced to the ALCS for the first time in five years.
The victory completed a splendid comeback in the best-of-five series that saw the Indians take the first two contests and place the Yankees' season in the balance. For their mettle, they'll move on to face the Houston Astros with the American League Pennant on the line.
For Terry Francona's Indians, who also squandered a two-game lead in last year's World Series, the night was the very worst kind of here-we-go-again.
Tribe starter Corey Kluber, who entered the playoffs as the favorite to win the AL Cy Young Award, bows out of the postseason having allowed nine earned runs in two short appearances. His opposite number, CC Sabathia, posted nine strikeouts, combining with two Yankees relievers to utterly shut down the hosts.
Live look at Corey Kluber hiding from Didi Gregorius pic.twitter.com/GUjgxFBy5h— Lester, The Writer (@TheLesterLee) October 12, 2017
While Gregorious' twin taters were all the offense the Bombers needed on the night, Brett Gardner added two more runs to seal things up neatly in the top of the ninth in sensational fashion. When he prevailed against Indians reliever Cody Allen in a mesmerizing 12-pitch at-bat to extend the lead to three runs, you got the feeling that destiny was firmly in favor of the 27-time World Series champs.
With these Yankees being at least a year ahead of schedule according to the conventional wisdom, they're fairly playing with house money.
Is the Evil Empire truly back? A fearsome Houston Astros club will help answer that question, at least for now.
But whether you love them to death or live to see them suffer, there's something about the Yankees' return to the MLB penthouse that feels downright appropriate.