NEW YORK (AP/WJW) — It was a tough day for Cleveland Guardians fans.
Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge staggered Cleveland with early homers, and the New York Yankees beat the Guardians 5-1 Tuesday in the decisive Game 5 of their AL Division Series to set up another rematch with Houston for the pennant.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone won his gamble by starting Nestor Cortes on three days’ rest over Jameson Taillon, making the late switch after Monday night’s rain caused a postponement.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona stayed the course with Aaron Civale instead of switching to 2020 Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber on short rest. Civale had trouble throwing strikes, and the Guardians never recovered from Stanton’s three-run homer just 21 pitches in.
“He just didn’t come out commanding very well,” Francona, who was complimentary of his bullpen, said following the game. “I felt terrible taking him out that quickly, but I just didn’t think we could give up any more.”
The sellout crowd of 48,178 cheered when Myles Straw hit a grounder for the final out. Second baseman Gleyber Torres stepped on the bag to end it, then mimicked rocking a baby with the ball — a jab at Guardians slugger Josh Naylor, who made the motion rounding the bases after a homer off Gerrit Cole in Game 4. Yankees fans also stayed classy, and followed suit throughout much of the game.
When asked how far his team went this season, Francona remained proud of his guys.
“Probably further than anybody except the people in that room thought they would go,” Francona said. “They’re hurtin’ right now, because they care, and they worked unbelievably hard. But I hope, as that wears off, they’ll realize how proud we are of them and how much we care about them. And I also reminded them this needs to be a starting place for us. This can’t just be a good story, we need to take this and go. I think we have a chance to have something really special.”
Jameson Taillon will start Wednesday night’s AL Championship Series opener at Houston, which goes with Justin Verlander. The AL matchup features the league’s top two regular-season teams in the 106-win Astros and 99-win Yankees, a contrast to the NL championship between wild-card San Diego and Philadelphia.
Houston beat the Yankees in a seven-game championship series in 2017 and over six games in 2019. The Astros went on to their first World Series title in 2017 but later were found to have used a video camera to signal opposition pitches to their batters.
AL East champion New York, seeking its 28th title and first since 2009, may be without Aaron Hicks. The left fielder came out of the game after hurting his left knee in a third-inning collision with rookie shortstop Oswaldo Cabrera.
AL Central champion Cleveland, the youngest team in the majors and with a $68 million payroll that’s a fraction of the Yankees’ $274 million, remained without a championship since 1948. The Guardians led 2-1 in the best-of-five series before the Yankees won 4-2 behind Cole on Sunday to force the series back to New York. Cole was warming up in the ninth inning of Game 5, just in case.
Cleveland has lost 11 straight postseason elimination games, a major league record. The Guardians seemed jarred by the early deficit and failed to ask for a video review in the fourth inning when Andrés Giménez clearly beat a diving Anthony Rizzo to the first-base bag.
José Ramírez drove Cleveland’s run with a sacrifice fly in the third after the bloop single down the left-field line by rookie Steven Kwan, the play that caused Hicks’ injury. Kwan was 9 for 21 (.429) in the series.
Yankees: Planned to land in Houston late Tuesday night for the ALCS opener.
Guardians: Open the season at Seattle on March 30.