For the third time in six years, the Yankees will face the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series.
The Bombers punched their ticket to the ALCS with a dominating 5-1 win over the Cleveland Guardians in Game 5 at Yankee Stadium. Nestor Cortes threw five strong innings of one-hit ball and home runs from Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge propelled the offense.
The deciding game came a day later than it had been scheduled due to inclement weather that struck the New York metropolitan area the night before. The postponement allowed New York to turn to Cortes in the win-or-go-home contest, where he answered the call for the Yankees.
“A lot of pressure, obviously. Our season was on the line today,” The Yankees starter said after the win. “I knew yesterday when Aaron Boone told me that I was starting today, he basically told me, you know, give us whatever you’ve got, whether it’s one, whether it’s three, whether it’s five. I was a little nervous because I knew the fans and everybody was waiting for our victory. But definitely, incredible atmosphere. Incredible feelings. Just happy to be here.”
Tuesday marked the 11th Game 5 in club history for the Yankees and New York moved to 9-5 in potential elimination games dating back to 2017. New York now moves on to play in their 18th ALCS, which is the most all time.
“Everybody was excited to come out today and just finish the job,” Judge said.
The Yankees had control of the game for the better part of the afternoon as Cortes quickly worked his way out of the first two innings and got out of a bases-loaded jam with only one run against. He finished the game by allowing just three hits and striking out two before turning things over to the bullpen.
“Just the legend of Nestor,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of his starter. “I knew he wanted the ball, and I just felt like — you know, once we got rained out last night, I felt convicted that Nestor was who I wanted to go with, and that sets us up with Jamo full-bore in Game 1 when obviously we’ve had to use a lot of pitching.”
Jonathan Loáisiga went two innings without giving up a run and Clay Holmes got the Yankees through the eighth. Manager Aaron Boone turned to Wandy Peralta in the ninth to close out the game.
“It feels cool, but we’re in the middle of it. Something I can look back on, but I got more work to do,” Stanton said following the postgame celebration.
Stanton’s success in the postseason continued in Game 5 as the Yankees DH got his team on the board in the bottom of the first with one swing of the bat. Stanton put the Yankees up 3-0 after Gleyber Torres walked to start the inning and Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch to put runners on.
Stanton took a 2-0 pitch to the right field stands for his second home run of the postseason. The three-run blast also marked the third time he’s homered in the four winner-take-all playoffs that he’s played in his career.
The Yankees added to that lead in the bottom of the second when Judge sent a solo shot to right field to make it a 4-0 game. The home run was the fourth homer in a winner-take-all game, making him the only player in Major League Baseball history to do so.
The Guardians did get one run back in the following inning thanks to a miscue by the Bombers that allowed what should have been a routine popup to drop. Oswaldo Cabrera and Aaron Hicks collided chasing down a ball hit by Steven Kwan, putting two runners on with just one out.
Amed Rosario walked to load the bases which allowed Jose Ramirez to hit a sacrifice fly to center to drive in Kwan.
New York added another run in the fifth when Rizzo hit an RBI single to center field and drove in Torres from second base to make it a 5-1 ball game.
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The Yankees now have a date with a team that has become one of their biggest rivals, the Astros. Houston has eliminated the Yankees from the postseason in all three meetings they’ve had with them.
The most recent heartbreak came in 2019 when knocked out the Yankees in six games in the ALCS.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Judge said about the impending matchup. “It’s definitely going to be a fun series. We’ve played them quite a few times in the postseason and looking forward to getting back there.”