At times it wasn’t a perfect outing, but Gerrit Cole pitched deep into Game 1 as the Yankees offense gave the starter the needed run support in a 4-1 win over the Cleveland Guardians to open the American League Division Series.
In the Yankees’ first home playoff game since Oct. 18, 2019, Tuesday’s contest likely lived up to what Yankee fans had hoped to see out of their ballclub to start the series. Coincidentally, that game also ended in a 4-1 score in favor of the Bronx Bombers.
Cole threw like the ace that New York believes him to be, the offense chipped in when they needed to and the Yankees had a few impressive defensive plays to boot.
All of that added up to a Game 1 win in front of a jubilant sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium. Following the win, the Yankees extended their record to 6-2 in the first game of a playoff series dating back to 2018 and are 11-3 in their last 14 postseason series openers since 2005.
The questions around Cole’s ability to be the Yankees ace in the postseason seemed to be answered by his 6.1-inning outing in which he struck out eight and allowed just one run on four hits. He also worked himself out of a few jams during the night and was given a standing ovation as he exited in the seventh inning.
Yankee Stadium standing ovation for Gerrit Cole in the postseason. Great start from him pic.twitter.com/AKRaieluKL
— The Short Porch (@short_porch) October 12, 2022
“I thought Gerrit was really good. I thought his breaking ball was really good,” Yankees manager Aaron Boon said. “I thought he was unpredictable. I thought he did a good job of mixing pitches. The one big-time jam that he got in, you know, he’s able to make some huge pitches to get out of the inning. You know, I thought we gave them a couple free bases there in the first couple innings, but really got really good defensively as the game wore on and made some really good plays behind him.”
One of the biggest moments of the night for Cole came after he had given up a go-ahead home run in the third to Steven Kwan to put the Guardians up 1-0.
Things looked as though they could get further out of hand when Rosario was hit by a pitch in the next at-bat and Ramirez doubled. Naylor reached first on a fielder’s choice when first baseman Anthony Rizzo opted to throw the ball home to prevent a run from scoring.
But Oscar Gonzalez grounded out to third and Andres Gimenez struck out on a nasty slider from Cole on a 2-2 pitch to end the inning.
From there Cole made quick work of the Guardians’ offense by walking just one batter over the next three innings.
“I thought that there’s a conscious effort there to be a little more disciplined to the breaking ball at the beginning of the third inning,” Cole said about his mentality and getting Cleveland to play his game. “So you need to switch gears in some situations to either a different breaking ball, or find a different way to get strike one. And then once we had the lead, then we just tried to play with it.”
Cole recorded two strikeouts in a 24-pitch first inning that ended with Josh Naylor going down swinging on a 3-2 curve ball. He worked out of a similar spot in the second inning, which eventually led to him sitting down Austin Hedges to end the inning on the New York Ace’s fourth strikeout of the game, and in the fourth, he ended the inning with a K after impressive defensive plays by Oswaldo Cabrera and Josh Donaldson got the first two batters out.
It was in the bottom of the fifth that New York took their first lead of the night, which nearly didn’t happen thanks to a baserunning error by Donaldson. The Yankees’ third baseman thought he had hit a home run to right field and trotted around first not realizing that the ball had stayed in the park and Cleveland was able to get him.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa, seemingly atoning for an earlier fielding error, bailed out Donaldson by stretching a double to right and reaching third on a Guardians fielding error. Jose Trevino hit a sac fly to deep center to drive in the go-ahead run.
The Yankees’ offense packed it on in the sixth after Aaron Judge walked and Anthony Rizzo hit an absolute blast to right field that sent the stadium into euphoria. The two-run home run gave the Yankees a 4-1 lead at that point in the night.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 12, 2022
“Whatever you can add on to a lead, especially in a series like this where it’s five games and kind of a sprint, it just feels good,” Rizzo said about the emphatic bat flip he did after hitting his home run. “I feel good with our staff, with our bullpen, the way we are designed and lined up after the rest and after the break. So yeah, as many runs as we can score feels good.”
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It had been another Yankee home run that helped swing the momentum of the game in favor of the home side.
Bronxville native Harrison Bader eliminated the New York deficit in the bottom half of the third when he sent a 406-foot dinger to left field with an exit velocity of 109.8 mph. The solo blast was Bader’s first as a Yankee and couldn’t have come at a more important point of the game at that point.