The Yankees lived to play another day thanks to a strong showing from their ace
The New York Yankees won ALDS Game 4 on the road against the Cleveland Guardians on Sunday night to tie the series at 2-2 and force a decisive game in the best-of-five series. Gerrit Cole and Harrison Bader helped save New York’s season in a 4-2 victory. The Yankees took an early lead and never trailed, but there was some drama into the late innings.
Let’s take a look at how it all went down.
Yankees strike early, Bader goes deep again
The Yankees got on the board before the Guardians even had a chance to hit. Gleyber Torres led off the game with a single, stole second base and then scored on an Anthony Rizzo single.
They didn’t wait long to add more, as center fielder Harrison Bader hit a two-run shot in the second inning to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead. Here’s the blast:
It was a no-doubter at 429 feet and the third home run for Bader in the series. He hit zero in 14 regular-season games for the Yankees, and before his injury and trade, he hit five in 72 games for the Cardinals. This is only the third time in Yankees history a center fielder has homered three times in an entire postseason, joining Mickey Mantle and Bernie Williams, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Cole looked like an ace
That’s why they pay him the big bucks, right? The Yankees were facing elimination and needed a big outing from their ace coming off a gut punch of a loss in Game 3. Cole went out and worked seven strong innings. The Guardians were able to scratch a run across the plate in the third inning on a José Ramírez blooper that had no business being a hit.
There was one booming run given up by Cole: A Josh Naylor homer in the fourth inning. Naylor was very excited rounding the bases while calling Cole his “son.”
Hey, whatever gets you going, right? That’s the eighth straight playoff game Cole has allowed a homer, tying Yu Darvish for the MLB record (via Katie Sharp).
Cole locked it in after that. He responded by retiring the next 10 batters he faced and 12 of his final 13.
The line: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, BB, 8 K. He threw 110 pitches, so anyone thinking of him coming out of the bullpen in Game 5 can keep dreaming. Regardless, that was a big outing for the Yankees when they needed it most. In fact, it could be argued this was the biggest outing of Cole’s Yankees career, given the circumstances.
Also, for fans of starting pitchers going deep into games (I’m raising my hand!), Cole going seven here was the eighth time so far this postseason that a starter has gone at least seven innings. There were only four such starts for the entirety of the playoffs last year (via Sarah Langs). This is a positive trend for the game as a whole, it says here.
Yankees give Guardians a taste of their own medicine
The Guardians’ ways of putting the ball in play to make things happen really went their way in Game 3. They found a bunch of holes, sometimes on balls not hit very hard. Their first run in Game 4 was similar.
This time around, in the top of the sixth, the Yankees gathered some insurance in similar fashion. Aaron Judge reached on a ground-ball infield single before Anthony Rizzo softly doubled down the left-field line. Then Giancarlo Stanton drove home Judge with a sacrifice fly.
It’s much more efficient to just club homers, but any which way works. All the runs count the same.
Holmes, Peralta shut the door
With the late-inning rallies we’ve seen from the Guardians all season, not to mention the Yankees’ bullpen woes late in the year, a two-run lead was pretty tenuous heading to the eighth. Much was made about Clay Holmes not pitching in Game 3. He got the eighth inning in this one. He walked Steven Kwan with one out, bringing the tying run to the plate, but Holmes struck out Amed Rosario and then Ramírez to end the threat.
In the ninth, the Yankees went with Wandy Peralta. He had already thrown in every game this series, making the Game 4 outing his third consecutive day on the hill. He went 27 pitches in Game 3, too. No matter. He closed things down with two weak grounders and a strikeout.
Peralta only threw seven pitches in this one, but Game 5 would be his fourth straight day pitching. It’s possible he’ll be compromised. Yankees manager Aaron Boone has indicated he wouldn’t use Holmes on back-to-back days, so it’s possible he’s out for Game 5 or at least not as sharp as he was in Game 4.
Everyone else is available.
Guardians best relievers are fresh
With a big tip of the hat to Cody Morris for his two scoreless innings and nods toward Zach Plesac (one scoreless inning) and Eli Morgan (one run allowed in one inning), the Guardians’ bullpen is in excellent shape heading to Game 5.
Sam Hentges didn’t pitch in Game 4 after going 31 pitches in Game 3.
Trevor Stephan hasn’t pitched since Game 2.
Primary setup man James Karinchak hasn’t pitched since Game 2, meaning all three setup men are fresh and ready to go in possibly extended duty in Game 5.
Emmanuel Clase is the best closer left in the playoffs. He also hasn’t pitched since Game 2. In that game, he went 2 1/3 innings, providing a nice illustration that he’s fine getting a lot more than just three outs.
Expect Terry Francona to lean heavily on those four pitchers in Game 5 with the season on the line.
We’ll do it again Monday, only the series shifts back to Yankee Stadium for a 7:07 p.m. ET start. There was only one Wild Card Series to go the distance and it was played in New York and this series represents the only divisional series to go the distance. It’s win or go home for both teams.
As such, the pitching situation is basically “all hands on deck.” The starters are set to be Aaron Civale for the Guardians and Jameson Taillon for the Yankees.
Civale (5-6, 4.92) hasn’t pitched in game action since Oct. 5, but he did close the season well (3.27 ERA in his last four starts). Taillon (14-5, 3.91) was the losing pitcher in Game 2, as he coughed up two runs on three hits without recording an out in the 10th inning.
Still, it’s unlikely either team is planning on the starters to go very deep unless they are totally dominant — especially the Guardians with those late studs fresh.