Kevin Russo's RBI single in the 10th inning was the difference as Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre survived a late comeback to beat Columbus, 5-4, to even their best-of-5 semifinal playoff series in Game 2 on Thursday.
Russo, who was the hero for the Bronx Bombers in a win over the New York Mets earlier this season, knocked home Reid Gorecki with a single to right in the top of the 10th.
After a pair of walks in the bottom of the 10th, veteran John Van Benschoten closed out the game, to send the Yankees back to Moosic, Pa., with the series even, 1-1.
"I was trying to move him over and got the ball through the four-hole," Russo said. "I got a hit and we scored a run."
Gorecki was hitless in three at-bats, but added his second and third steals of the postseason. He walked to lead off the 10th and then swiped second before Russo beat longtime Major League reliever Saul Rivera with a liner to the right of second baseman Cord Phelps.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was again without its top player, Jesus Montero, who also missed the series opener Wednesday with a leg injury. Russo said he wasn't sure whether the catcher would be healthy enough for Friday's Game 3.
Van Benschoten filled in for Minor League saves leader Jonathan Albaladejo, a night after Amaury Sanit blew a one-run lead in a 6-4 walk-off win for Columbus.
"It was a good game, we played well, they played well. Overall, it was a good game by both teams," Russo said. "It's great to get a win. Now we're moving on and looking forward to playing at home."
Russo said the bullpen has picked up the slack after Albaladejo got called up to the Bronx.
"We have a bunch of great guys and Alby's a great closer, but we also have other guys that can step in and get the job done," Russo said. "And they've been doing it since he left."
The Yankees took the lead in the third on Justin Christian's one-out homer to center off former Yankees prospect Zach McAllister. They tacked on three more runs in the sixth on consecutive homers by Chad Huffman, who hit a two-run shot, and Eric Bruntlett, whose drive to left chased McAllister in favor of Major League veteran Aaron Laffey.
Wes Hodges' two-run homer in the sixth put Columbus on the board before Ezequiel Carrera's bases-loaded walk in the eighth forced home Jerad Head to tie the game, 4-4.
Russo, a native New Yorker who was born in Long Island, is enjoying his playoff journey in a year that saw him become a hometown fan favorite in his Major League debut.
"It's been a great year. I was up in New York and had the time of my life, and I came back down but haven't been hitting as well as I know I can," he said. "But it's overall been a good season for me, just getting called up like that. Now I'm just hopeful we can finish the season strong with a win."
David Phelps, who was undefeated at Double-A Trenton this year, got the start after going 4-2 with a 3.07 ERA in 12 outings with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The Notre Dame product held the Clippers to three runs on five hits and four walks over six frames. He struck out four and was pulled after facing two batters in the seventh.
"He looked really good, he had some big pitches and he pitched well," Russo said.
McAllister allowed four runs -- one earned -- on five hits an a walk over 5 2/3 innings in his first start against his old teammates. He spent the majority of the year in the Yankees' rotation, where he won eight games and had a 5.09 ERA in 24 starts, before he was traded in late August to Cleveland as the player to be named later in a deal that sent outfielder Austin Kearns to the Bronx before the July trade deadline.
"It was a little weird at first, but it's the same thing. It's baseball, you gotta have the same approach," Russo said. He added that it helped a bit with the team being familiar with McAllister's pitches. "You know how guys throw and and what pitches they have."
McAllister, who went 7-5 wit a 2.23 ERA in 22 last year, entered the year ranked among the top young arms in the Yankees' system. He struggled at times, though, allowing four or more runs in 10 of his 24 starts through his final appearance with the Yanks on Aug. 17 against, oddly enough, Columbus.
The teams will meet again in Game 3 on Friday at 6:05 p.m. ET when the host Yankees send their franchise wins leader, lefty Kei Igawa (3-4, 4.32 ERA), to the mound. Yohan Pino (10-9, 5.75 ERA) is expected to get the nod for the Clippers.
"Just win," Russo said. "That's the plan every day."
In other International League action:
Durham 6, Louisville 2
Durham's bullpen pieced together a four-hitter and Joe Dillon knocked in two runs as the Bulls evened up their series at Louisville. Justin Ruggiano had three hits and two runs scored in support of lefty Darin Downs, who pitched the third and fourth frames to pick up the win. Gameday box score