CLEVELAND -- Danny Salazar struck out eight and pitched into the eighth inning as the Indians dislodged the Yankees from first place in the American League East, notching their fourth consecutive victory with a 2-1 decision on Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
Francisco Lindor and Abraham Almonte each delivered a run-scoring single to account for the offensive production against CC Sabathia, who permitted 11 baserunners over six innings of work but limited the damage against one of his former clubs.
"There are some guys in here that are hungry and you can tell," Indians closer Cody Allen said. "They play with an edge and they play with passion. You're starting to see a team really, really come together and get an identity."
The Yanks' offense again remained largely dormant as they lost their fifth straight game, falling out of first place for the first time since July 1. Brian McCann hit a second-inning homer off Salazar, who allowed just four hits while walking five over 7 1/3 innings as he earned his 10th victory of the year. New York is a half-game behind the Blue Jays in the division.
"I actually thought we swung the bats better tonight," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought they made some really good plays. I thought we hit some balls deep tonight. [Salazar has] got good stuff, he's got power, he's got an outstanding changeup."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Rally by the Tribe: The Indians erased their deficit by scoring a run in the fifth and sixth innings. They played small ball in the fifth with a sacrifice bunt by Jose Ramirez that moved Roberto Perez to third and Mike Aviles to second. The next batter, Lindor, drove in Perez with an opposite-field single to right. Almonte gave the Indians a 2-1 lead the following inning with an RBI single that scored Carlos Santana, who led off the frame with a single.
"[Lindor] had a nine-pitch at-bat [in the third inning] that, maybe a month ago, some of those pitches he probably would have swung and missed," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Now he's fighting them off and staying alive until he can get a pitch he can get. It's extremely encouraging. He looks like he's gaining confidence by the day, and he should."
CC limits the damage: Making his first start in Cleveland since Aug. 24, 2012, Sabathia spent most of his night working out of jams, permitting nine hits and two walks yet limiting his original club to just two runs. Sabathia had help from his infield defense, particularly Didi Gregorius, and was able to keep his club in the game despite leaving on the wrong side of the decision. It was Sabathia's ninth quality start out of 22 this year.
"I think my stuff was better last time, but I was able to battle tonight and get some ground balls when we needed some double plays," Sabathia said. "My main focus always is to keep us in the game and give us a chance to win, and I think we accomplished that tonight."
Salazar sizzles: The Yankees had an opportunity to strike back in the seventh after giving up the lead in the sixth. Mark Teixeira singled to lead off the inning, and Carlos Beltran doubled him over to third after a McCann pop out. But those runners would stay where they were, as Salazar got Gregorius to pop out before striking out Chris Young on three pitches. More >
"We were in a tough spot," Francona said. "You've got a guy that can run at the plate. You can potentially walk somebody, but then you're asking for trouble. We're looking for just basically a strikeout. You get a popup in the infield, pretty fortunate, but he made good pitches. If they hit a ground ball to second, OK, we've got a tie game, but he kept the lead."
Double your displeasure:Alex Rodriguez had a frustrating night at the plate, taking a hitless collar in four trips though he expected better. Rodriguez had a potential first-inning single turned into a dazzling, inning-ending double play by Ramirez and Lindor up the middle, then stepped up with two men on and one out in the eighth inning. Allen induced Rodriguez to hit into a 6-4-3 double play, squelching the rally.
"I thought it was a great situation. I just didn't get it done," Rodriguez said. "I got a good pitch to hit, put a decent swing on it and hit into a double play."
"It goes back to: That's baseball. That's why you play so many games. You're going to have times when you hit and you don't pitch and you're going to have times where you pitch and don't hit. This happens to be one of them, and it just goes back to showing up tomorrow and we've got to get a win." -- McCann
The Yankees successfully challenged a call at first base in the second inning. With one out, shortstop Gregorius made a diving stop of a Giovanny Urshela grounder and fired to first baseman Teixeira. Urshela was initially called safe by first-base umpire John Hirschbeck, but after review, the call was overturned. The Yankees have had 15 of 21 challenges overturned this year.
WHAT'S NEXT Yankees: The Yankees complete their three-game visit to Cleveland on Thursday, sending right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (11-2, 4.15 ERA) to the hill in the 7:10 p.m. ET contest. Eovaldi last pitched on Friday, working 6 1/3 innings of one-run, five-hit ball and taking a no-decision in New York's loss to the Blue Jays.
Indians: Right-hander Trevor Bauer (9-8, 4.06 ERA) takes the mound in the series finale, making his first start against the Yankees this season (fourth of his career). Bauer will need to do a better job of keeping the ball in the park against the team with the third-most home runs in baseball. Bauer's allowed 14 homers in his past nine starts, and he owns a 5.27 ERA in that stretch.
August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.