Righty strikes out five, helps force Game 5 Wednesday
By Bill Ladson
NEW YORK -- Overpowering. It's the only way to describe Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle's performance in a 7-3 victory over the Indians on Monday at Yankee Stadium in Game 4 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan. Kahnle struck out five over two perfect innings to notch the save, evening the series at 2-2 and forcing Game 5 on Wednesday in Cleveland.
With New York up by four runs, setup man Dellin Betances started the eighth inning, and he once again had trouble with his control, walking the first two Indians he faced -- Yan Gomes and Francisco Lindor. And the pitches weren't close to being strikes, as he nearly hit both.
"Honestly, I was probably a little too amped up today, but I wouldn't say it's a step backwards," Betances said. "I've been feeling good. Let's just put this one behind me. We won the game. I'll try to help the team in Cleveland."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi -- trying to avoid using closer Aroldis Chapman, who threw 34 pitches in Game 3 on Sunday night -- went to Kahnle with the heart of the Tribe's order due up.
Kahnle struck out Jason Kipnis looking, then induced Jose Ramirez to fly out to Aaron Judge in right field before getting Jay Bruce to swing at strike three. In the ninth, Kahnle impersonated Chapman by striking out the side. The first two Indians went down looking in the final frame, before Lonnie Chisenhall swung and missed at a 91-mph changeup in the dirt.
"It was huge," Judge said. "What Tommy did tonight was incredible, coming in like that after Dellin and getting three outs like that [in the eighth]. He came in with two guys on, no outs. With that Cleveland lineup, it's a tough situation. But we had confidence in Tommy. He went out there and just did his job."
It is a performance that Kahnle, who started throwing in the bullpen after Betances walked Gomes, won't soon forget.
"I was trying to stay focused on getting the outs that we needed to win this ballgame," Kahnle said.
Not only was he focused, the usually stoic Kahnle was pumped after getting the last out of the game.
"I'm not an emotional guy," Kahnle said. "When I'm pitching, I try not to be so amped up. I try to stay calm and make each pitch. Whatever they need from me, I'm going to give it to them. Hopefully, it's good.
"To be honest, I'm prepared for any situation. Go out there, get ahead, throw strikes and just keep us in the game. You always have to have it in the back of your mind that one day you might be on a team that is in this situation."
It was Kahnle's first postseason save and his first since Sept. 4, 2016. But its impact goes beyond a Game 4 victory, because Girardi didn't have to use Chapman, who will be good to go for Wednesday's Game 5 for as long as he is needed.
"I'm trying to do everything I can to stay away from Chapman, so I just felt like I had to make the move [and bring in Kahnle]," Girardi said.
Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002 and does a podcast, Newsmakers. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.