The Yankees’ worst habit this season is when their offense goes missing for stretches and games at a time. Unfortunately for them, that habit showed back up at a bad time. After taking an early 2-0 lead on a Giancarlo Stanton home run, the Yankees then spent the next nine innings being unable to take advantage of any other chances they had. Aaron Judge went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts, and the rest of the lineup was only marginally better. While Yankees’ pitching wasn’t bad, they had to be perfect, and eventually, they faltered.
The Guardians answered back with two runs off Nestor Cortes, with the game then turning into a battle of the bullpens. With the Yankees’ one in the state that it currently is, that was always a dangerous proposition. Eventually Cleveland pushed across a couple more runs, and the Yankees had no answer, taking a 4-2 loss that evened the ALDS up at one.
In the top of the first, Cortes worked in and out of trouble, thanks to some help from an unassisted Anthony Rizzo double play. Then, in the bottom of the first, his offense got him a lead. With two outs in the inning, Gleyber Torres kept the inning alive by poking out a single to right, bringing Stanton to the plate. After working the count 3-1, Stanton got a pitch that looked pretty clearly looked low and also a bit outside, bringing the count to 3-2 instead of a walk. That bad call would actually end up benefitting the Yankees, as Stanton took the very next pitch over the wall in right field to give the Yankees an early lead.
Cortes got himself into another jam in the fourth, and this one he couldn’t get out of damage free. Despite getting two quick outs, a Josh Naylor infield single and a walk to Owen Miller kept the inning alive. Andrés Giménez then dropped a single into right field, and Aaron Judge’s throw home was high and off line, allowing a run to score. Cortes then also issued a walk to Austin Hedges, who’s not exactly a great hitter. Myles Straw came up next and Cortes got him to hit a groundball, but it required a ridiculous play from the Yankee starter to get the out at first to end the inning.
Despite that play, the Guardians would tie the game shortly after that. The Yankees went down in order in the bottom of the fourth, and Amed Rosario promptly homered in the fifth to even things up. He got out of the inning after that, but that would be the end of Cortes’ day. In his five innings, he allowed two runs on six hits and three walks, while striking out three. With the bullpen the way it is, the Yankees probably would’ve been hoping for a better outing, especially innings wise, but on the whole he was effective, with most of Cleveland’s contact being of the non-threatening variety.
Lou Trivino was brought in for the sixth and got two outs either side of a walk and stolen base from Giménez. That brought Aaron Boone back out of the dugout, and the Yankees then brought in Jonathan Loáisiga. He got a pop up to end the inning.
While Bieber did occasionally get some help from a strike zone that was iffy for both teams, he mostly settled down after the Stanton home run. However, a Josh Donaldson walk and a Isiah Kiner-Falefa single that just dropped in over a fielder’s glove would knock Bieber out after 5.2 innings. He ended his day having allowed two runs on five hits and three walks, striking out seven. Looking for to deliver a big punch, the Yankees then got aggressive and sent up Matt Carpenter as a pinch-hitter for Jose Trevino. In his first at-bat since August 8th, Carpenter worked the count, but eventually struck out against Guardians’ reliever Trevor Stephan.
Loáisiga would go on to pitch the seventh and got the first out of the eighth before the Yankees brought in Wandy Peralta, who in turn got two quick outs.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees had another chance to retake the lead, as Stanton, who was then pinch-ran for with Tim Locastro, Josh Donaldson, and Kiner-Falefa walked to load the bases with two outs. Cleveland brought in their dominant closer Emmanuel Clase to try and get out of the inning. Kyle Higashioka, in after the earlier Carpenter for Trevino pinch-hit spot, made good contact on a pitch, but it was hit right at José Ramírez for the final out of the inning.
Peralta and Clay Holmes combined to throw a scoreless ninth, but it was not without a close call. With two outs, Straw drew a walk to keep the inning alive. Kwan then hit a hard grounder to Rizzo, who couldn’t handle it, allowing him to reach with Straw getting to third on the error. Holmes then got a groundout to keep the potential go-ahead run 90 feet away.
A two-out Rizzo single was the only semblance of offense in the bottom of the ninth, and the game was off to extra innings. There Jameson Taillon came in, and things started to go wrong. Ramírez led off the inning and managed to drop a bloop single right in front of Oswaldo Cabrera in left field. With Ramírez then off for second, Donaldson, who also came up a couple feet short of the blooper, then made an error on the throw, allowing Ramírez to reach third. Then, Oscar González hit a blooper of his own that landed in no man’s land, giving the Guardians the lead. Josh Naylor then added a RBI double, knocking Taillon out. Clarke Schmidt came and got three outs to keep Cleveland to just two runs.
Donaldson drew a walk in the bottom of the 10th, but that was the extent of the rally attempt. Clase ended up completing a 2.1 scoreless inning out to seal the win.
The state of the Yankees’ bullpen and the rainout that postponed this game a day always had a potential to throw a wrench in their plans. Now we’ll have to see if the Yankees can avoid a messy situation.