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Yankees 4, Guardians 2: Gerrit Cole’s dominance ushers in Game 5

A few timely hits were all that Cole needed to send the series back to New York for one last ALDS rumble.

MLB: New York Yankees at Cleveland Guardians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

When things look bleak, you look to the ace to right the ship. With a tired bullpen, New York absolutely needed Gerrit Cole to deliver, and he did so with seven innings of two-run ball. The Yankees scored early against Cal Quantrill, and it was enough to book Game 5 tomorrow back in the Bronx with a 4-2 victory.

The Yankees quickly grabbed a lead in the first inning, and not through the home run ball. Gleyber Torres led off the game with a single. Aaron Judge worked the count full but struck out yet again, but on that final pitch Torres stole second base. That allowed him to barely get home on an Anthony Rizzo single:

It looked like New York could get even more, but Rizzo tried to steal second base on Quantrill’s timing. But he broke way too early, allowing the right-hander to run off the mound and tag him out. Giancarlo Stanton grounded out to end the inning at one run.

Steven Kwan, who will probably now be known as a Yankee Killer until the day he retires, reached first on an infield single to begin the bottom half of the first. Torres ranged far to get the ball and made a good throw, but couldn’t get him out. Kwan stole second base, but Cole struck out Amed Rosario and José Ramírez and induced Josh Naylor to pop out, so they didn’t end up denting home plate.

Josh Donaldson began the second inning with another leadoff single. After Oswaldo Cabrera flew out, Harrison Bader added to his legend with yet another home run, making it 3-0.

Improbably, that was Bader’s third homer of the series after not going deep since June 2nd, when he was still with the Cardinals. He battled a long-term injury and some skepticism about his bat even following his Yankees debut in mid-September. But now, the 28-year-old is shining on the biggest stage.

Cole allowed another leadoff runner in the second but was able to work around it. He wasn’t quite so lucky in the third. He walked Austin Hedges to start the inning, which really shouldn’t happen. Kwan hit into a force out that got him to first base. Rosario followed a hard single, bringing the dangerous Ramírez up.

He hit — what else? — a bloop into left field that neither Donaldson or Aaron Hicks could reach. Kwan motored around to score, but Ramírez turned around after heading for second base and the Yankees were able to nail him trying to dive back into first base, keeping the inning from spiraling any further.

After the Yankees went down quickly in the top of the fourth, the Guardians were able to reduce the deficit to just one on a solo home run by Naylor. The DH very much rubbed it in Cole’s face by pretending to rock a baby while running the bases (get it, he’s his daddy).

New York had an immediate chance to respond with runs of their own after Trevino reached on a Rosario throwing error and Quantrill walked Hicks with one out to turn the lineup over. While Torres smashed the ball to third, Ramírez was able to turn it into a double play.

Eli Morgan replaced Quantrill to start the sixth inning. Judge started things off with an infield single — he was just barely safe, and manager Terry Francona burned Cleveland’s second and final challenge in the hopes he wasn’t. Then BABIP went in New York’s favor for what felt like the first time. Rizzo hit a lazy popup down the left field line that everyone seemed to think was going to be foul, but it just barely dropped fair. Kwan had a little trouble corralling it, allowing Judge to reach third and Rizzo second.

Stanton launched a long sacrifice fly to center field to make it 4-2. However, Donaldson and Cabrera both struck out, making it a wasted chance to also drive in Rizzo.

With his pitch count climbing to eventual triple-digits, manager Aaron Boone made the obvious choice to let Cole pitch the seventh inning. After Oscar Gonzalez grounded out, Andrés Giménez hit a single to center that Bader bobbled, allowing him to advance to second base. It was sweating time, and Clay Holmes began warming up, but Cole struck out Gabriel Arias and pinch-hitter Will Brennan to keep a run from scoring.

Cole wasn’t perfect, allowing six hits and walk over seven innings, but he struck out eight and provided the length that the team absolutely needed. Without his two dominant starts, it’s hard to see how the Yankees could still be in this series. That’s what your ace does.

After the Yankees failed to tack on in the top of the eighth, Holmes entered the game. Myles Straw grounded out, but Holmes walked Kwan, making things nerve-racking. But the All-Star struck out Rosario looking (with some help from the umpire and Trevino on a pitch that looked low) and Ramírez swinging. He made the Guardians icon look silly on a ball way down and in.

Zach Plesac summarily sent the Yanks down in the ninth. Three outs to go: A terrifying prospect, considering what happened last night. But after heavy work on back-to-back days, Wandy Peralta entered and threw a quick, clean, drama-free inning. He retired the Guardians on just seven pitches to lock down the 4-2 victory.

And now Jameson Taillon will get the ball at Yankee Stadium tomorrow night against right-hander Aaron Civale. Boone said in the postgame that Game 2 starter Nestor Cortes will have his spikes on in the ‘pen as well. Since both pitched just two days ago, we’ll surely have almost all hands on deck in the ‘pen, including another bulk guy in Domingo Germán. We’ll see if New York can make their date with destiny in Houston after all. First pitch for Game 5 is 7:07pm ET.

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