If I may paraphrase the Bee Gees. “Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’ [at the Stadium] and Yanks are in game five, in game five.”
Gerrit Cole came through with an ace like performance and the Yankees had just enough offense and bullpen to capture game four of the American League Division Series.
The Yankees beat the Cleveland Guardians, 4-2 last night at Progressive Field to keep their season alive and force a deciding game five at Yankee Stadium tonight with a 7:07 pm, first pitch.
Cole gave the Yankees exactly what they needed with seven terrific innings and he finished it off in style when he fanned pinch-hitter Will Brennan on three straight, four seam fastballs to end the seventh.
The Yankee right hander gave up two runs in seven innings with one walk and eight strikeouts. Cole tossed 110 pitches and won his second game of the series as he continued to dominate the Guardians this season. With this win, Cole is 4-0 vs Cleveland with a 1.73 ERA.
Harrison Bader hit his third home run of the series to become only the second Yankee (Charlie Keller in 1939) to have three home runs in his first four post season games. Giancarlo Stanton did not have a hit but he had a big sacrifice fly that plated a run in the sixth.
Cole perked up in his post game presser when he was asked about the impact that Bader has made on the club. “He’s electric, he’s an electric player,” Cole said. “Impact player. Got moxie, got baseball awareness, gets after the ball on defense. Lot of good things to say about that guy.”
The Yankees needed to score early and they got on the board in the top of the first.
Gleyber Torres led off with a single off of Guardians starter and loser Cal Quantrill and stole second as Aaron Judge struck out. Anthony Rizzo, who had two hits, stroked an RBI single to center as the Yankees took a 1-0 lead. Uncharacteristically, Rizzo was then caught stealing as he was picked off first and run down by the pitcher to squash a potential rally.
In the second, Harrison Bader continued to own Quantrill as he lined a two run home run to left center that went 429 feet (5 for 7, 3 HRS, 4 RBIs including post season vs Quantrill). Josh Donaldson led off the inning with a single and scored on the home run to make it 3-0.
Cole had runners on in the first two innings but a nice 6-4-3 double play ended the second inning after Oscar Gonzalez, the game three hero, led off the inning with a hard single to right.
The double play was even more significant because it was started by Oswaldo Cabrera, who was inserted to start at shortstop, while Isiah Kiner-Falefa took a seat on the bench. Cabrera, who played only four games at short since he was promoted from the minors, was flawless in the field with four putouts and two assists. “Felt like he would handle it well and I thought he did,” Yankee Manager Aaron Boone said. When Boone was asked if Cabrera is in the lineup for game five, Boone said, “Yeah, probably.”
Cleveland got their first run in the third. Amed Rosario’s two out single put runners on the corners and Jose Ramirez hit a bloop single to shallow left to score Steven Kwan. However, Ramirez aggressively rounded first and the Yankees took advantage of that aggressiveness as he was thrown out trying to get back.
Aaron Hicks, who started in left field for the first time in the post season, fired to Torres who threw to Rizzo at first to nail Ramirez and cut short a rally. “To shut that down with that defensive play was big.” Cole said.
Josh Naylor led off the fourth with a long home run to right center field to make it a one run game. Cole gave up a league leading 33 home runs in the regular season and it was a Major League record eighth straight post season game that he’s given up a home run. The one saving grace was that it was a solo shot.
The Yankees had two on and one out in the fifth when Torres lined a missile to third. Ramirez made a diving stop to his left, got up and threw to Andres Gimenez at second who fired to first to complete the double play as Torres threw down his helmet in frustration.
Judge, who is 2 for 16 in the series, led off the sixth by beating out an infield hit. The Guardians challenged a close call at first but the call was confirmed. Rizzo blooped a double down the left field line to put runners on second and third with no one out. Stanton’s sac fly made it 4-2 but Donaldson and Cabrera struck out to end the rally.
After Naylor’s home run, Cole set down 10 straight Guardians’ hitters before Gimenez singled to center and took second as Bader bobbled the ball for an error.
At this point, Cole reached down for something extra.
A tough six pitch at bat ended when Gabriel Arias was called out on strikes. Cole painted the outside corner with a 97 MPH four seam fastball and then blew away Brennan with a 97 MPH four seamer. Brennan tried to ask for time but it wasn’t granted by home plate umpire Will Little. “Him [Cole] getting that last out was huge, that was it right there. I was going to Clay [Holmes] there,” Boone said.
Cole was determined to not let this one get away. “We just executed a lot of good pitches and mixed well enough to get away with a couple of mistakes. I had the lead and just was focused on executing pitches and not giving it up,” he said.
Clay Holmes, whose usage or lack of it in game three caused some controversy, came on to pitch the eighth. The Yankee reliever walked Kwan with one out but struck out Rosario looking on a close pitch and he got Ramirez swinging for the final out.
Holmes said Cole set the tone. “Gerrit showed up huge tonight, just what we needed. We knew we just needed to win one game and get back to the Bronx. I like our chances,” he said.
Wandy Peralta was brought in to pitch the ninth and he retired the side on seven pitches, striking out Gimenez to end it for the save and send the series back to the Bronx for tonight’s game five.
Jamison Taillon gets the start in the most important game of his career while Aaron Civale will get the nod for Cleveland. “Playing in the AL East, facing the lineups we face, playing in a Yankees uniform in Yankee Stadium, every game’s a big game so I feel like we’re ready for it,” Taillon said.
Holmes is ready. “It’s all hands on deck tomorrow, it’s game five win or go home,” he said. “Anybody can throw a pitch, we’re gonna be available and that’s gonna be me.”
The Yankees have the momentum and will be relying on a raucous Yankee Stadium to help get them over the hump.
Bader sat in the stands for post season games in the late 1990’s but now he’ll be on the field in the biggest game of his career and he won’t be lacking for confidence. “If there’s a game being played, we feel as though we’re in the driver’s seat,” the Bronxville native said.