CLEVELAND — The Yankees saved Aroldis Chapman from re-living a postseason nightmare.
On his first visit to Progressive Field since Game 7 of last year’s World Series, Chapman was bailed out by sensational defensive plays from Brett Gardner and Ronald Torreyes in the ninth inning as New York hung on to beat the Cleveland Indians 2-1 on Saturday night and stop a four-game losing streak.
Last November, Chapman (4-2) nearly blew the Cubs’ first World Series title since 1908 when he gave up a game-tying, two-run homer to Rajai Davis in the eighth inning. Chicago went on to win in extra innings but the left-hander’s meltdown — and Davis’ dramatic shot — remain two of the game’s most enduring moments.
Chapman said he didn’t think about that night.
“It was just another game,” Chapman insisted.
It didn’t feel like one.
Chapman allowed a leadoff single in the ninth before Jose Ramirez hit a fly to deep left that the 5-foot-11 Gardner grabbed with a jump on the warning track.
“It’s a ball (6-foot-7, Aaron) Judge probably catches without having to jump. I was fortunate it wasn’t 6 inches higher because it could be a different result in the game,” Gardner said.
As Ramirez’s ball headed to left, some of the Indians were convinced it was gone — and they had gotten Chapman again.
“I’m pretty sure I saw some guys running around in the dugout,” Indians catcher Yan Gomes said.
Edwin Encarnacion followed with a blooper toward right that looked destined to drop before Torreyes raced back and snared with a diving catch before sliding on his belly across the grass.
Chapman then went to a full count on Carlos Santana, who homered in the second inning, before striking him out with his 21st pitch of the inning for his 14th save.
The defensive gems were a nice change for the Yankees, who made three errors in the series opener and had another error, passed ball and two wild pitches on Friday.
Chase Headley homered with one out in the eighth inning off Zach McAllister (1-1) for the Yankees, who have been anything but Bronx Bombers lately.
Headley pulled a 0-1 curveball and his sixth homer barely cleared the wall in right. With top reliever Andrew Miller on the disabled list, Indians manager Terry Francona has limited late-game options and decided to go with McAllister, who allowed his first run in 11 1/3 innings.
“I didn’t locate the pitch that I wanted to and it’s frustrating,” McAllister said.
The Yankees have scored just eight runs in the past five games and they managed only four hits through seven innings against Indians starter Danny Salazar, who struck out a career-high 12.
Daniel Robertson (5-2) pitched two scoreless innings and Dellin Betances worked the eighth before giving way to the fire-balling Chapman.
The Indians had their home winning streak stopped at nine games.
For seven innings, Salazar mostly dominated the Yankees, who managed just one run. It was the right-hander’s third strong start since returning from the disabled list last month.
Salazar was hoarse afterward and didn’t speak with reporters. He wriggled his way out of trouble in the first, got stronger as the game wore on, throwing a 98 mph fastball on his 110th pitch and striking out the side in the seventh to put an exclamation point on an outing that can only boost his confidence.
Over his last three starts, Salazar has a 1.35 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 28 innings.
“The guy comes out there, gives us seven innings, one run, 12 strikeouts,” Gomes said. “Everyone was kind of iffy on how he was going to come back. He’s healthy. We all know when he’s healthy, he’s a dangerous pitcher.”
With starting catcher Gary Sanchez having defensive issues, Yankees manager Joe Girardi started Austin Romine behind the plate.
Sanchez committed his major league-leading 12th passed ball Friday night and Girardi, who caught for 15 seasons in the majors, was critical of his catcher. Sanchez hasn’t been replaced, but Girardi is going to rest him when the schedule allows.
“Our goal is to get him better,” Girardi said. “It’s our responsibility to help him and we will do that.”
Judge is still struggling. He singled in the first inning, struck out twice and grounded out. The rookie slugger is hitting .178 (13 for 73) with 32 strikeouts since the All-Star break.
Yankees: DH Matt Holliday is headed to the disabled list with a sore lower back. Holliday tweaked his back while swinging during Friday’s game and was kept out of the lineup. Holliday is batting just .136 (11 for 81) with one homer and four RBIs since the All-Star break.
Indians: 2B Jason Kipnis will come off the disabled list Sunday and is expected to start the series finale. He’s been out since before the All-Star break with a strained right hamstring.
Indians RHP Carlos Carrasco didn’t get out of the second inning in his previous start against Boston. He’s 4-4 against the Yankees, who will start Luis Severino, who is 3-0 in his last five starts with a 1.36 ERA and 39 strikeouts.