Jay Bruce shines in playoff debut with Cleveland Indians

Cleveland Indians right fielder Jay Bruce (32) rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the fourth inning against the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the 2017 ALDS at Progressive Field.
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CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians traded for outfielder Jay Bruce in order to get an impactful bat in the middle of the lineup, and in his first playoff game at Progressive Field, the hard-hitting southpaw did not disappoint.

Bruce got hits in his first two at-bats, drove in three runs and led the Indians to a 4-0 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the 2017 American League Division Series Thursday night.

“I think that's kind of the beauty of it all is tonight it was me, tomorrow, it could be any of those other 24 guys on the roster right now,” Bruce said. “I think that speaks to the depth and the quality of our lineup, of our team.

“It couldn't have gone any better for us. You can't say enough about the job that Trevor and the rest of the pitching staff did tonight, and we were able to put some runs on the board. They really never got to get anything going.”

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Bruce led off the second inning with a double off of the scoreboard in left field, and after he smashed the Sonny Gray pitch, first baseman Carlos Santana singled to center field, which moved Bruce up to third base.

After left fielder Lonnie Chisenhall was hit by a pitch, catcher Roberto Perez grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, but that drove in Bruce for the game’s first run.

Bruce one-upped himself with a hit over the wall in right in the bottom of the fourth inning.

With designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion on with a lead-off walk, Bruce belted a 94-mile-per-hour fastball from Gray into the seats in right field for a two-run home run, which gave the Indians a 3-0 lead over the Yankees.

“I got a couple pitches that I was able to handle, and it worked out,” Bruce said.

Bruce was far from done making his mark on the game.

In his third at-bat, Bruce smashed an RBI sacrifice fly to center field, which scored second baseman Jose Ramirez and gave the Indians a 4-0 lead over the Yankees in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Down in the count, 0-2, against reliever Adam Warren, Bruce watched as three straight sliders sailed out of the strike zone, including one that bounced free in front of the batter’s box, which moved Ramirez from second base to third, and then, smacked a fastball to center field for the sacrifice.

“I'm very, very fortunate to be here,” Bruce said. “I couldn't have fallen into a better situation. Obviously, when you get traded and you're in trade rumors, it's usually a contender or a team that's contending at the moment. For whatever reason, I ended up here. Like I said, I know it sounds cliché, but I just want to do my part, man, and this has been a blast so far.

“This team welcomed me with open arms, and for me to come in and the transition be so seamless, I can't imagine that happens every time or for everyone, and to walk into a situation like this is something that you don't see very often.”