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Yankees 2, Guardians 3: Bombers let Bieber off the hook and regret it

A promising start fizzled in a hurry as the Yankees failed to push a run across after the first inning.

New York Yankees v Cleveland Guardians Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

Despite the mismatch of a starting pitcher matchup, Monday night could been a Yankees blowout in Cleveland. They had Shane Bieber on the ropes from the jump, and even when the opening salvo only turned into a couple runs, there was an opportunity for more. Nothing came of it, and when Bieber settled into a groove, the offense was rendered powerless. Cleveland made a mini-comeback and tagged New York with a tough L, 3-2.

The top of the first inning was an ambush by the Yankees against Bieber, the Guardians’ best pitcher. Leading off with DJ LeMahieu on the bench, Gleyber Torres sent a laser down the left-field line on Bieber’s first pitch of the game, and Aaron Judge followed with a walk to run his impressive on-base streak up to 43 in a row (third-best in New York’s Post-DiMaggio Streak Era). Anthony Rizzo scalded a singled to load the bases, setting the stage for the king of exit velos himself: Giancarlo Stanton.

Torres’ two-bagger registered at 106.8 mph and Rizzo’s hit came close at 106.2 mph. Leave it to Big G to put them to shame with a 116.3-mph smash off the left-center-field wall.

Stanton’s double plated a pair of runs to make it 2-0, Yankees. Bieber showed his mettle by working out of a tough jam from there. In his New York debut, DH Willie Calhoun actually hit one harder than Torres or Rizzo, but it went right into the glove of second baseman Andrés Giménez. Jose Trevino bounced into a fielder’s choice, and Franchy Cordero struck out to finally give Bieber a breather.

Another chance went by the wayside in the second. Isiah Kiner-Falefa started it with a single and stole second base as Anthony Volpe struck out. Torres worked a walk to bring up Judge. But a wild Bieber offering that didn’t bounce far enough away from catcher Mike Zunino inspired Kiner-Falefa to bolt for third. He was thrown out. It doesn’t matter how fast you are; you shouldn’t be taking risks like that when the defending AL MVP has a shot to drive you in. Although Judge ultimately went down on strikes, that’s still a mistake on IKF’s ledger.

Speaking of mistakes, Yankees starter Domingo Germán sure made a couple in the bottom of the second. The 2022 All-Star Giménez gave him a gift by popping up a bunt ... which Germán 1) dropped, and 2) bobbled as he hastily tried to get off a throw to first. Giménez thanked Germán by swiping second and moving to third on a roller from Josh Bell. Will Brennan brought him home on a sacrifice fly to cut New York’s lead to 2-1.

Germán wobbled some more in the third on a leadoff walk and stolen base by Amed Rosario, though Josh Naylor did him a favor by swinging at a terrible pitch on a pop fly for the second out. Giménez hit an easy groundball to end the inning, but that would be the last out that Germán recorded. He came back in the fourth to walk Bell and Brennan back-to-back, and Zunino mercifully ended Germán’s wild night with an RBI double.

The five walks were a career-worst for Germán, and he was extremely fortunate in other regards. There’s the statistical aspect that his second-inning error saved him from more than one earned run charged, but there’s also the relief element.

Colten Brewer entered after Germán left. Despite making his first appearance in over a week and walking his first batter to load the bases with no one out, he channeled his inner David Robertson to escape the disaster. The right-hander got Steven Kwan to hit a comebacker for a fielder’s choice at the plate, and then Rosario bounced into a rally-killing 4-6-3 double play to keep the score knotted at two runs apiece. Germán owes Brewer a big, juicy steak for that.

Back on offense, the Yankees’ lineup was in the middle of getting completely waxed by a vengeance-seeking Bieber. After IKF was caught stealing third, the 2020 Cy Young Award winner retired 12 Yankees in a row, blanking them for the rest of his outing. The streak was snapped when Calhoun registered a two-out double in the sixth, but he was quickly stranded. Cordero worked a leadoff walk in the seventh only to be promptly erased on a double-play grounder by the ever-tedious Kiner-Falefa. Bieber’s final line featured seven innings of two-run ball, and the Yankees rued the missed opportunity to capitalize on his shaky start.

Brewer pitched a scoreless sixth but fellow late-addition reliever Ian Hamilton couldn’t match him in the seventh. He walked both Kwan and Rosario to start the inning, and after Kwan moved to third on a José Ramírez fielder’s choice, Naylor brought the go-ahead run in on a deep fly ball to center.

It was a simple enough rally, but the Yankees couldn’t match it when given a terrific chance in the eighth. Torres wound up at third on a leadoff triple when Myles Straw failed in his attempt to catch Gleyber’s sinking liner to center. All Judge or Rizzo had to do to tie it again was match Naylor sacrifice fly with one of their own, but the captain could only muster a check-swing popup while Rizzo struck out on a wicked curve from James Karinchak. Stanton struck out as well and that was that. Closer Emmanuel Clase left no doubt that this game was over in the ninth as the Yankees went down in order.

Cleveland’s ace took his turn tonight; New York’s will get the ball tomorrow. Tune in at 6:10pm ET when Gerrit Cole squares off with rookie right-hander Hunter Gaddis.

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