For all the questions about Yankees ace Gerrit Cole and the condition of the bullpen, New York got the job done in as complete of an effort as you could have hoped for. New York now holds the 1-0 series edge over the Cleveland Guardians after Tuesday’s Game 1 victory and will get the chance to send the series back to Ohio in complete control with a win on Thursday.
There was plenty to digest from the opening game of the series, a lot of it good, buts some corrections as well that would behoove the Bronx Bombers. Here are three takeaways from Game 1.
Bullpen by committee works
The Yankees bullpen had been one of their biggest issues coming into the series, but after one game and 2.2 innings of work for the relief staff, they seemed to hold their own. Clay Holmes picked up the save while Jonathan Loaisiga and Wandy Peralta helped bridge the gap after Cole came out of the game in the seventh inning.
Both Peralta and Cole had been returning from injury and it was unclear how much the Yankees could rely on the two in the postseason. Neither faltered in tough situations with Loaisiga forcing Amed Rosario to ground into a double play to end the seventh and then Peralta forced a double play of his own and struck out Oscar Gonzalez swinging.
“I felt very confident that I was going to be able to go out there and pick up where I left (off),” Peralta said through a translator. “Attack the hitters and not try to do too much. Just keep doing what I’ve been doing throughout the year and definitely the confidence was there.”
Boone had made it a point to keep arms at the ready as he worked his way through some of his bullpen. A strategic move that even included warming up Jameson Taillon in the ninth after Holmes had come in just in case they had to call on the starter.
Manager Aaron Boone indicated that it would be that way throughout the postseason.
“I mean, it’s all hands on deck, and everyone is going to have to play an important role on a given night,” Boone said. “You know, coming in and getting a big double play, getting us out of an inning there, getting us out of a jam. Obviously Wandy coming in and being real efficient going through that lefty lane. And then Clay, really good to get him back out there. I thought he threw the ball really well. Hits the first guy.
“Just had to check on my heart and I thought he threw the ball really well to finish off a really well-pitched night.”
Aaron Judge’s quiet night
The Yankees was held without a hit in Game 1 while striking out three times and waking once. For the most part, it had been an uneventful night in the Bronx for the man who had been the main event for the final weeks of the regular season.
He finished 0-for-3, but did steal a base in the bottom of the sixth which would have been a close call had it not been for a bad throw to second. That play was a reminder of the effectiveness that he can have outside of just hitting home runs.
“He’s well-rounded in every aspect and that’s what makes him so special, said Anthony Rizzo, who hit a two-run home run that same inning, “He’s not just one-dimensional by any means. He’s the model of a five-tool player. He’s got speed. He can steal bases if he needs to. He’s just all-around prepared at all times.”
Still, an o-for night isn’t something that Judge is going to want to continue and if the team moves on it would become imperative that he gets a few more hits.
You could joke that Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa would make up baseball’s version of a redeem team after the two made two mistakes at different points in the game, but made up for them later in the evening. Kiner Falefa had errored on a play at short in the first inning that allowed Rosario to reach base.
Cole helped them get out of the inning and the play was moved passed. Then it was his offense that helped set up the Jose Trevino sac fly in the third to put New York in front.
Ironically, Donaldson’s big blunder came that same inning when he made a baserunning mistake by going into a home run trot after he hit a ball to right field that looked out. The ball bounced off the wall and Donaldson, who had not been running hard, got caught between first and second.
He made up for it in part the following on a stellar defensive play at third to get the second out of the fourth.