NEW YORK (AP) – Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge stunned Cleveland with early homers, and the New York Yankees beat the Guardians 5-1 in the deciding Game 5 of their AL Division Series on Tuesday to set up another pennant rematch against Houston.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone got his gamble by making Nestor Cortes on three days’ rest in place of Jameson Taillon late after Monday night’s rain caused a delay.
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 struggled with hitting, and the Guardians never recovered from Stanton’s three-run homer on just 21 pitches.
Cortes dominated with three hits over five innings for the win, Jonathan Loáisiga, Clay Holmes and Wandy Peralta finished with five scoreless innings.
A sellout crowd of 48,178 cheered like the Yankees when Myles Straw hit a grounder for the final out. Second baseman Gleyber Torres stepped on the bag to end it, then imitated a baby swing at the ball — a shot at Guardians shortstop Josh Naylor, who made a round-the-base motion after Gerrit Cole’s homer in the fourth.
Taillon will start the AL Championship Series opener at Houston on Wednesday night, going with Justin Verlander. The AL matchup features the league’s two best regular-season teams in the 106-win Astros and 99-win Yankees, contrasting the NL championship between wild cards San Diego and Philadelphia.
Houston swept the Yankees in seven games in the championship series in 2017 and by more than six games in 2019. The Astros won their first World Series title in 2017, but it was later revealed that they used a video camera to signal opposing pitches to their hitters.
AL East champion New York, seeking its 28th title and first since 2009, may be without Aaron Hicks. The left fielder exited the game after injuring his left knee in a third-inning collision with starter Oswald Cabrera.
AL Central champion Cleveland, the youngest team in the majors and with a payroll of $68 million, a fraction of the Yankees’ $274 million, had not won a championship since 1948. The Guardians had a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series before match. The Yankees won 4-2 on Sunday behind Cole to send the series back to New York. Cole was warming up in the ninth inning of Game 5, just in case.
Cleveland has lost 11 consecutive elimination games in the postseason, a major league record. The Guardians seemed rattled by the early deficit and didn’t ask for a video review in the fourth inning when Andrés Giménez clearly beat Anthony Rizzo on a diving catch to first base,
Cortes, a fan favorite with his hesitant delivery that he took advantage of in the fifth, allowed one run, struck out two and walked one while throwing 61 pitches.
Stanton and Judge each hit twice in the series, and New York outscored Cleveland 9-3 while scoring 16 of 20 runs on long balls. Judge became the first player with four homers in a winner-take-all postseason game, breaking a tie with Yogi Berra, Moose Skowron, Stanton, Didi Gregorius and Troy O’Leary.
The rain cleared and the game began with left field and center field in bright sunshine on a 57 degree afternoon. There were empty seats scattered around for the 4:07 p.m. start, and fans loudly booed Naylor, whose exuberant “rock the baby” home run trot caught New York’s attention Sunday. Fans serenaded Naylor with rocking moves and chants of “Who’s your daddy!” as they had done for Boston’s Pedro Martinez two decades earlier.
Civale, a 27-year-old right-hander, was in Cleveland’s rotation before being sidelined three times this season with injuries. He looked troubled, throwing just 12 of 26 pitches for strikes, getting just one swing-and-miss and just one out.
Torres walked on four leadoff pitches, Judge hit a full-count curveball and Civale hit Rizzo on the left thigh.
Civale was started by Stanton with an outside curveball in the dirt and pitching coach Carl Willis went to the mound. Civale threw a knife that missed low and out. and catcher Austin Hedges lined up on the low, outside corner, Civale left the cutter up and Stanton lined it 379 feet into the short right-field porch, a drive that would have been a home run in only three of the 30 major league ballparks.
Civale faced just one more batter, leaving after Josh Donaldson’s infield single.
Judge hit an opposite fielder to right field in the second on a curveball from left-hander Sam Hentges, Judge’s 13th homer of the postseason. The Yankees are 27-2 when Stanton and Judge Homer are in the same game.
José Ramírez drove in Cleveland’s run with a sacrifice bunt in the third after rookie Steven Kwan hit a single down the left-field line, the play that caused Hicks’ injury. Kwan was 9 for 21 (.429) in the series.
The playoff rounds coincided on the same day for the first time in Major League Baseball history, with the NL Championship Series beginning less than 30 minutes after the final pitch.
Rizzo and Yankees teammates Harrison Bader and Isiah Kiner-Falefa were all hit by pitches.
ROOM for trainers
Yankees: Hicks went to the hospital for an MRI. … RHPs Ron Marinaccio and Frankie Montas were at Yankee Stadium and are set to travel to Houston for possible activation.
Yankees: Scheduled to land in Houston late Tuesday night for the ALCS opener.
Watchmen: Season opens in Seattle on March 30.
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