NEW YORK (AP) — Mike Freeman found out Saturday night he was going to pick up a rare start in place of Cleveland Indians star infielder Jose Ramirez.
A couple of hours before Sunday’s game, the 32-year-old career minor leaguer took a walk out to an empty Monument Park in Yankee Stadium to check out the plaques of past Yankees greats.
Freeman looked like a star, too, on Sunday when he hit a three-run homer and two doubles as the Indians tamed the New York Yankees 8-4 for a four-game split between AL pennant contenders.
“That’s just baseball history right there,” said Freeman, who’s spent the bulk of his 10-year professional career in the minors with five organizations.
“My grandfather on my mom’s side was a huge baseball fan. I always loved the game early on and he was one that would save the clippings and was a big fan of the history of the game. He passed away many years ago. I think that’s where I get it from. I kind of do those type of things because I know how much he would appreciate it and want to do it,” he said.
Oscar Mercado homered and drove in three runs and Francisco Lindor also connected for Cleveland to back Mike Clevinger (8-2).
Clevinger struck out 10 in five shutout innings. He won his seventh straight decision, limiting New York to three hits and walking two.
A day after manager Aaron Boone, outfielder Brett Gardner and pitcher CC Sabathia were ejected for again ranting against umpires, it was a relatively quiet afternoon.
Miffed by a strike three call against rookie Mike Ford, Boone merely threw his hands up and walked down the dugout steps without saying a word.
Sabathia (5-7) came off the injured list after being out with knee tendinitis. He lasted only three innings, allowing four runs and four hits while walking three and striking out five.
Sabathia, ejected by umpire Phil Cuzzi the day before, bickered a bit with him behind the plate before Cleveland scored four times in the second.
Greg Allen plated the first run of the game on a grounder and then Freeman a drive into the Yankees bullpen for his fourth home run.
“Just a little rusty, but I felt really good,” Sabathia said.
It was the veteran lefty’s first start since July 27. Sabathia is 0-3 in his last five starts, and hasn’t won a game since June 24 against Toronto.
Lindor hit 21st homer off Nestor Cortes Jr. in the fourth. Mercado increased the lead 6-0 with an RBI single in the sixth and added a two-run homer, his 10th, in the eighth to make it 8-2.
New York’s streak of 207 consecutive games without being shut out was in danger until DJ LeMahieu connected a two-run shot in the seventh. It was his 21st.
The Yankees cut the deficit to 8-4 on a pair of run-scoring hits from LeMahieu and Aaron Judge off reliever Brad Hand in the ninth before he struck out Didi Gregorius and got Gio Urshela to fly out to end it.
Indians star Yasiel Puig provided a playful moment by copying — for a moment — an unusual batting stance from the Little League World Series that’s getting a lot of looks. Deivis Ordonez of Venezuela has drawn attention for his exaggerated crouch that leaves him nearly sitting down in the batter’s box. Puig mimicked the stance in his first at-bat, then straightened up before Sabathia threw the first pitch.
Boone said he talked to Gardner about the outfielder’s recent habit of banging the bat against the dugout roof to express displeasure with decisions by umpires. Gardner was ejected for doing that Saturday, and Boone suggested umps might be watching him in the future.
“We’ll try and not escalate situations, especially when there’s some contention, different than when we’re rallying or getting guys excited,” Boone said.
Boone said he hadn’t talked to anyone at MLB about “no, you hard and fast cannot” do what Gardner has been doing.
Gardner’s dent-dinging routine might be a new rally symbol for the team with the best record in the majors. When Judge singled in the third, he looked into the dugout and imitated grabbing a bat the way Gardner did a day earlier.
Luis Severino (right shoulder inflammation) threw a 15-pitch simulated game with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and Boone looking on. The 25-year-old, who is recuperating from an injured right rotator cuff, faced assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilittere, who hit a changeup back at him, and bullpen catcher Radley Hadaad shortly after going through a 25-pitch bullpen session.