CLEVELAND — There were questions about whether the Yankees should start Gerrit Cole in Game 1 of their best-of-five games American League Division Series, but Aaron Boone went with the man to whom they gave a historic contract to pitch big games. It’s paid off twice. Cole fended off the scrappy Guardians Sunday night and kept the Bombers’ season alive with a 4-2 win at Progressive Field.
With the Yankees facing elimination, Cole gave the Yankees seven strong innings, holding the Guardians to two runs on six hits. He walked one and struck out eight. Harrison Bader hit a two-run home run, Clay Holmes, the center of controversy after the Yankees collapsed Saturday night, worked around a walk to pitch a clean eighth inning.
The Yankees head back to the Bronx for the decisive Game 5 after evening the best-of-five game series at 2-2 with Sunday night’s win. The Bombers plan to start Jameson Taillon at the Stadium for the do-or-go home game. The Yankees improved to 14-9 in potential elimination games in the ALDS and 6-6 in such games on the road.
Cole came into this game having beaten the Guardians three times this season, including in Game 1 of this series. He also came in with a 1-3 record and a 3.91 ERA in five career starts in potential elimination games. His lone win was in the 2019 ALDS against the Rays when he was with Houston.
Guardians’ left fielder Steven Kwan, who reached on a fielder’s choice with one out in the third, scored on Jose Ramirez’ single. Josh Naylor crushed a 98-mile an hour fastball 405 feet to lead off the fourth and cut the Yankees lead to a run.
Cole got out of a jam in the second thanks to a nice double play turned behind him and again in the third he had to work around traffic. After giving up the homer to Naylor, Cole retired 10 straight before former Mets prospect Andres Gimenez lined a one-out single to center field and advanced to second on a Harrison bader fielding error. Cole came back and struck out Gabriel Arias looking at a 98-mile an hour fastball and pinch hitter Will Brennan swinging and missing on another fastball at 98.
Cole threw 110 pitches Sunday night and made the Yankees’ meager offense stand up.
Gleyber Torres led off the game with a single. He stole second and scored on Anthony Rizzo’s line drive.
Bader has three home runs since he was acquired by the Yankees, all in the last four games of this payoff series. Bader hit his second off Cal Quantrill in the second inning, a two-run shot that went 429 feet to left-center field. Bader is 4-for-14 in this season with four RBI.
Aaron Judge picked up his second hit of the series, beating out a ground ball to second for an infield single. He is 2-for-16 with nine strikeouts in this series.
The slugger, who is coming off a historic season, is not only facing the potential end of his season Monday night, but possibly the end of his time with the Yankees. The 30 year old who hit an AL and Yankee franchise record 62 home runs this season turned down an extension offer that would have been worth $230 million (including the 2022 season) before Opening Day. He will become a free agent after the conclusion of the World Series and though he has said repeatedly he hopes to spend his entire career with the Yankees, he also said he will get to “talk to all 30 teams.”
That will likely include the Dodgers, the Giants, the Red Sox and even the Mets.
Both of Judge’s hits in this series came after Boone dropped him from the leadoff spot to No.2 in the lineup. Boone also made some defensive changes to his lineup Sunday night, sitting Isiah Kiner-Falefa after a disastrous night in the field Saturday. Boone said he felt that he was “pressing,” and unlike in the regular season not bouncing back from them. Instead, Boone moved Oswaldo Cabrera, who had been starting regularly in left field, to short stop and Aaron Hicks got his first start of the postseason.