CLEVELAND — If Aaron Judge had stolen second base in the eighth inning while Aaron Hicks was striking out, nobody in their right mind could correctly say Giancarlo Stanton would have followed by hitting the home run he drilled leading off the ninth.
To think otherwise is stupid because Stanton would have been pitched differently with Judge on second in the eighth — instead of the bases empty in the ninth, with the Indians leading by two runs.
Still, after Stanton homered in the ninth and the Yankees dropped a 6-5 decision to the Indians in front of a sold-out Progressive Field crowd of 35,078, manager Aaron Boone putting Judge in motion was a popular topic.
“I don’t know if it hurts more. It’s a different scenario, a different situation,” Boone said of sending Judge on the one-out, 3-2 pitch to Hicks. “Second-guess it a little bit, but I also felt the matchup, slow to the plate and betting on a pitch in the zone being put in play. But certainly something I second guess.”
Hicks swung through the pitch from Neil Ramirez, and catcher Yan Gomes made a perfect throw to shortstop Francisco Lindor. Judge was initially called safe, but an Indians’ challenge led to Judge being called out.
Stanton greeted Indians closer Cody Allen with a leadoff homer in the ninth that cut the hosts’ lead to 6-5, and Greg Bird followed with a single to right. With the largest Cleveland crowd of the season bracing for the latest bullpen collapse, Allen fed Miguel Andujar a 6-4-3 double play ball before walking Neil Walker to keep the Yankees’ hopes alive.
Those hopes died a quick death when Didi Gregorius, who was hitting for Kyle Higashioka, popped up to Lindor for the final out.
Because the play was very close at second, Judge said he didn’t know if he was safe or out, but admitted he thought the replay going the Indians’ way was a big factor.
“It would have been a huge bag if we got in there,” Judge said. “We didn’t get it done, especially after Stanton comes up the next inning and hits a home run, it’s tough, but those are gambles and you have to take those gambles. Took a risk and I was out.”
Because the AL East-leading Red Sox lost to the Blue Jays, the Yankees remained 3 ½ lengths back of their blood rivals, who had a 10-game winning streak halted.
Thanks to Domingo German’s early bout of wildness — 18 of his first 34 pitches were balls — the Yankees spent the evening going uphill. German walked the first two batters in the home first when the Indians scored a run and gave up three in the second when Michael Brantley delivered a two-run double.
Three Yankees runs in the fifth off rookie right-hander Shane Bieber (5-1) made it a one-run game, but two in the fifth by the Indians moved the lead to 6-3. Tyler Wade doubled and scored on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly in the eighth and Stanton’s 23rd homer in the ninth cut the deficit to a run.
“I was trying to be aggressive using the fastball, and I wasn’t commanding the fastball at all. I was ineffective,’’ said German, who is 2-5 with a 5.49 ERA and one of the reasons general manager Brian Cashman is attempting to make a trade for a starter before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. “Definitely facing a team like they have you are not looking to make it hard on yourself. Definitely, credit to them.”