CLEVELAND – Once there was a time in which the Yankees, with their limitless resources and disregard for payroll, were the buyers in the open market while teams like the Indians developed prospects in their system and picked up free-agent scraps when they could find them.
The Yankees have changed their thinking but so, too, have the Indians, which made for an interesting twist Friday when Jay Bruce stepped to the plate in the eighth inning with Cleveland desperately needing one more big swing to come back from a five-run deficit.
Bruce became available in August with the Mets out of contention and cutting their losses in a miserable season. The Yankees were intrigued by the right fielder and the possibility of bringing another big bat to the Baby Bombers while they continued on an unexpected run toward the postseason.
Apparently, the Yanks were dissatisfied with the price and the Mets' unwillingness to eat a large portion of the $5 million remaining on his salary. The Indians, of all teams, showed up with check in hand and paid the full fare, completing the deal for a veteran who had hit 29 homers.
It was so out of character the Indians trolled on the Yankees on their Twitter account for not spending the money that Cleveland did.
Bruce showed he was worth every penny with an opposite field homer into the left field seats, tying the game before the Indians completed a dramatic comeback with a 9-8 victory over the Yankees in 13 innings. The Tribe now has a 2-0 series lead in the American League Divisional Series with a chance to sweep the Yanks on Sunday.
"We don't just believe in one guy," Indians skipper Terry Francona said. "We believe in our entire team, and it took out entire team to win that game. There were so many things that happened. If we don't do one of them, we probably lose."
The five-hour, eight-minute marathon ended when Yan Gomes hit a single down the line to score Austin Jackson from second. Jackson drew a leadoff walk from Dellin Betances and stole second to get into scoring position. The Indians showed yet again that they can beat teams in numerous ways, including making the right trades.
Gomes came through in the end, but the Indians wouldn't have extended the game had Bruce not produced in the eighth. Let's not forget that he hit a two-run homer and drove him three runs in a 4-0 win in the first game, doing most of the damage while hitting to the opposite field.
For all the talk about Aaron Judge, who is now 0 for 7 with five strikeouts in two games, justice has been served.
Man, what a wild game.
Cleveland used eight pitchers, the Yankees six. Both teams struck out 12 and walked five. The Yankees made too many mistakes, giving the Indians two unearned runs and a terrific team too many chances. It's hard to fathom Cleveland losing three straight games and allowing the series to get away from them.
"That's what you call October baseball right there," Gomes said. "We've had tremendous comebacks. That's one of the top ones. Going up, 2-0, against the Yankees going into New York, it's a good feeling."
The Yankees were in complete control with an 8-3 lead when CC Sabathia left the game with one out in the sixth. Gary Sanchez had hit a two-run homer in the first, Aaron Hicks followed with a three-run shot in the third and Greg Bird gave the Yanks a five-run lead with a homer in the fifth.
Cleveland didn't win 102 games during the regular season by turtling away from challenges. The Indians have been relentless and resourceful this season, and they're on a mission to win the World Series. They were well aware how quickly they could turn the game around on the Yankees.
Sure enough, they loaded the bases in the sixth before Francisco Lindor turned on Chad Green's fastball and smashed a 408-foot homer off the foul pole for a grand slam. The Indians were back in business, and the sellout crowd of 37,681 knew darned well that they weren't backing down.
"It was a special moment," Lindor said. "We have a long way to go. … We're blessed to be here. We want to take advantage and give ourselves a chance to win."
The Yankees had plenty of power, but it's not as if the Indians were in short supply across their gritty lineup when the series began. Lindor, the leadoff hitter, hit 33 homers during the regular season before adding the biggest of his career Friday. Cleveland grabbed Bruce to provide extra pop.
Cleveland remains the better team with the deeper pitching staff. New York will send Masahiro Tanaka (13-12, 4.74) to the mound Sunday against Carlos Carrasco (18-6, 3.29). Tanaka is coming off his best start of the season, a 15-strikeout performance in a win over the Blue Jays.
Game Two turned into a battle of the bullpens, as you knew it would at some point in this series. The Indians figured to have a slight edge but only because New York's had been taxed in the wild-card win over the Twins and again in the Indians' victory Thursday in the series opener.
You could sense a strange game was coming when the Yankees roughed up Indians starter Corey Kluber. The American League Cy Young favorite dominated the Yanks during the season with a 5-0 record, a 1.15 ERA and 44 strikeouts. The Indians had every reason to believe his success would continue Friday.
Kluber barely resembled the pitcher who virtually unhittable in the second half of the season en route to an 18-4 record and 2.25 ERA. He had control problems early, allowed homers to Sanchez and Hicks and never recovered. He surrendered six runs over 2 2/3 innings in his worst outing of the season.
It wasn't what Francona had in mind when he sent Trevor Bauer to the mound for Game One and saved his ace for Game Two. Baseball can be a funny game in that regard. The Yankees knew they had a puncher's chance against the Tribe, but they needed to land a few haymakers.
The Indians handled every shot.
Then they delivered one of their own.