NEW YORK — Trevor Bauer and Ryan Merritt shut down the Yankees’ offense, leading the Cleveland Indians to a doubleheader sweep that damaged New York’s chances to win the AL East.
Bauer won his career-best seventh straight decision, Jose Ramirez tied his big league high with four hits and the Indians took advantage of Gary Sanchez’s passed ball in a two-run first inning that stood up for a 2-1 win in Wednesday’s opener.
Yandy Diaz hit a two-run single in a four-run first inning against rookie Jordan Montgomery in the second game, and Edwin Encarnacion, Yan Gomes and Francisco Lindor added home runs in a 9-4 blowout that completed a three-game series sweep and extended the Indians’ winning streak to seven games.
Defending AL champion Cleveland has won 16 of 20, opening a 7 1/2-game lead over second-place Minnesota in the AL Central and moving a season-high 20 games over .500 at 76-56.
New York dropped five games behind first-place Boston in the AL East heading into a four-game series against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium starting Thursday night.
While the Baby Bombers lead the wild-card race, eight teams still have realistic chances to make the one-game playoff, and 24 of New York’s remaining 30 games are against those contenders.
Cleveland went ahead for good nine pitches into the first game and 16 pitches into the nightcap, then the Indians took a 9-1 lead into the ninth.
Bauer (14-8) allowed one run, four hits and four walks over six innings on an afternoon that began with a crowd of 39,568 watching in brilliant sunshine and ended with only a few hundred fans staying for the final out.
“It wasn’t his best stuff, but he fought like crazy,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Bauer is 7-0 in nine starts since a July 16 loss at Oakland.
“It was a struggle,” he said. “Day games are always kind of weird.”
Cody Allen struck out three of four batters for his 22nd save in 25 chances, combining with Tyler Olson and Bryan Shaw for one-hit relief. Slumping rookie Aaron Judge, held out of the starting lineup for a second consecutive game, pinch hit with two outs in the ninth and struck out. He was 1 for 3 with a walk in the second game.
Jaime Garcia (1-2) gave up two runs, six hits and three walks in five-plus innings.
Sanchez’s 13th passed ball, second-most in the major leagues, caused an unearned run. Lindor singled leading off, stole second, went to third on Ramirez’s single and came home on the passed ball, which also allowed Ramirez to advance.
“That’s kind of where I wanted to throw it, but my stuff sometimes moves,” Garcia said.
Diaz followed with another run-scoring single. Didi Gregorius had an RBI double in the third for the Yankees.
Both starters were brought up from the minors for the second game, and Merritt (2-0) began 16 of 22 batters with strikes, allowing one run and five hits in 5 1/3 innings. Cleveland sent 10 batters to the plate in the first against Montgomery (7-7), taking a 2-0 lead on Encarnacion’s RBI single and Carlos Santana’s run-scoring double.
Montgomery needed 43 pitches to get through the first and allowed four runs and six hits in four innings. Greg Bird drove in four runs with an RBI single in the second and a three-run homer in the ninth.
Yankees RHP Chad Green struck out seven over 2 2/3 innings in the opener, the most strikeouts in a game in big league history by a pitcher who faced eight or fewer batters.
“I absolutely didn’t know that when I was pitching today, but I guess it’s pretty cool,” he said.
Green has struck out 86 of 209 hitters this season.
“I’m just trying to attack the zone, and when it happens it happens,” he said.
Aaron Hicks had four hits in the second game, matching his career high.
Indians: RHP Danny Salazar (right elbow inflammation) is scheduled to throw a simulated game Friday. … LHP Andrew Miller (right knee patella tendinitis) has begun to throw on flat ground. … 2B Jason Kipnis (right hamstring strain) has started running but is not yet able to sprint. … OF Lonnie Chisenhall went 2 for 4 with Triple-A Columbus and is expected to be activated Friday. However, his father-in-law died and he could miss weekend games while on the bereavement list.
Yankees: LHP Aroldis Chapman underwent an MRI on Sunday to seek the cause of discomfort in his pitching elbow. The Yankees said no issues were found. Chapman, who lost his closer’s job in mid-August following poor performances, says he has a little soreness.
Indians: After an off day, Cleveland plays another doubleheader Friday at Detroit. RHP Carlos Carrasco (13-6) is scheduled to start the opener and RHP Mike Clevinger (7-5) tentatively is set for the second game.
Yankees: LHP CC Sabathia (10-5) starts Thursday’s opener of a four-game series against Boston, which goes with LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (4-4). Sabathia will be making his 250th start with the Yankees. He has allowed three runs over 13 innings since returning from the DL.