NEW YORK — Aaron Judge’s quiet batting helped the Cleveland Guardians clinch the American League Division Series during their extended trip to New York.
After Judge was hitless in eight at-bats and the teams split two games at Yankee Stadium, the series will shift to Cleveland for Game 3 on Saturday night as the Guardians try to contain the pitcher again while the Yankees hope to pitch more consistently in key situations.
New York opened the series with a 4-1 victory Tuesday night behind Gerrit Cole’s 6 1/3 innings of one-hit ball, along with homers by Harrison Bader and Anthony Rizzo. After a scheduled day off and rain, Cleveland got the split when Oscar Gonzalez hit a tiebreaking single off Jameson Taillon to score Jose Ramirez in the 10th inning in a 4-2 victory Friday afternoon.
Josh Naylor, who scored on Andres Gimenez’s RBI single in the fourth to cut the deficit to 2-1, added an RBI double in the 10th for the insurance run. Amed Rosario hit Cleveland’s fourth homer of the postseason to tie the game at 2 in the fifth.
“We’re just trying to find a way to get on base,” Naylor said. “If it’s a shot, it’s a shot. If it’s a hard-hit single, double, whatever it is, we just try to hustle, try to make things happen on the field, try to put pressure on the defense.”
Judge struck out four times Friday and grounded out in his fifth at-bat in the ninth inning. He is 0-for-8 in the series with seven strikeouts and has reached base once.
“Hipsters can’t push the button, and like guys, sometimes guys go 0-for,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “Until you get through the series successfully, I don’t think anyone is going to stand here and beat us in the chest. He’s too dangerous. We know that.”
Judge has historically struggled against Cleveland in the postseason. He was 1-for-20 and had three four-strikeout games apiece in the 2017 ALDS when the Yankees rallied to win in five. In the wild-card round two years ago in Cleveland, Judge was 1-for-9 as the Yankees swept the best-of-three series.
“I’ve had two bad games in my career more than once,” Judge said. “So that’s part of it and you have to learn from it, learn from mistakes and prepare for the next one. There are no breaks right now.”
While Judge’s torrid pace slowed after he hit his 62nd homer and broke Roger Maris’ AL record, the rest of New York’s offense was weak in key spots Friday. Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run homer in the first inning off Shane Bieber, but New York struck out 15 times, went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and went 11 outs.
The winner of Saturday’s game will be one win away from a trip to the ALCS, with Game 4 set for Sunday. Cleveland is looking for its first postseason win over the Yankees since the 2017 ALDS, when it won the first two games.
New York is trying to avoid being down 2-1 in the ALDS for the second straight time. The Yankees lost Game 3 to Tampa Bay two years ago to lose the series in five. Their only ALDS wins when they lost two of the first three games were in 2001 against Oakland and in 2017 against Cleveland.
Triston McKenzie (0-0, 0.00 ERA postseason; 11-11, 2.96 regular season) will start for Cleveland after allowing two hits over six scoreless innings in the wild-card clincher against Tampa Bay last Saturday.
McKenzie is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two career regular season starts against the Yankees. McKenzie also faced them in relief in Game 2 of the 2020 Wild Card Series and allowed two runs in 1 2/3 innings.
New York’s Luis Severino (2022 postseason debut; 7-3, 3.18 regular season) will make his 10th career postseason appearance and first start since Game 3 of the 2019 ALCS at home against Houston, when he allowed two runs in 4 1/3 innings.
Severino is 1-1 with a 5.79 ERA in three career ALDS starts. He picked up the win against Cleveland in Game 4 of the 2017 ALDS, when he allowed three runs in seven innings in a 7-3 victory.
– By Larry Fleisher, Field Level Media