Gerrit Cole gem helps Yankees force Rangers to Game 5 in ALDS – ESPN

Gerrit Cole gem helps Yankees force Rangers to Game 5 in ALDS - ESPN

CLEVELAND — The New York Yankees have signed Gerrit Cole for such games.

With the Yankees’ 99-win season on the brink, Cole pitched seven brilliant innings, propelling New York to a 4-2 victory over the upstart Cleveland Guardians on Sunday as the Bombers knotted the American League Division Series at two games to one.

Starting for the 16th time in his postseason career, Cole gave the Yankees exactly what they needed, not just in staving off elimination but also in saving additional wear on a bullpen worn out by injuries.

“He just kept making pitches all night,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I thought he was just really in control of the moment, and it was obviously a huge start for us and for him. And getting us that deep into the game set us up really nice.”

Cole allowed the Cleveland leadoff hitter to reach base in each of the first four innings, but every time it looked like he might teeter on the edge of trouble, he was able to mark it and escape with little to no damage on the scoreboard. He managed to pull off that trick while also keeping his pitch count under control so he could work deep.

“For most of the night, to pitch somebody, and in general, just stuff was pretty good,” Cole said. “But we just executed a lot of good pitches and mixed it up well. Good enough to get out of some mistakes.”

One of those errors came in the fourth inning, when Rangers flagged a hitter Josh Naylor led off with a ringing line-drive home run to right center. As he rounded the bases, Naylor made an exaggerated celebratory gesture, swinging his arms back and forth.

If the intent was to throw Cole off his game, it didn’t work — and couldn’t have worked, as Cole said he was unaware of Naylor’s antics until after the game.

“Whatever,” Cole said. “It’s beautiful. I haven’t seen it at the moment, and it wouldn’t bother me at the moment. It’s just kind of funny.”

Nothing could take away from Cole’s game in Game 4, as he held Cleveland to two runs over seven innings, struck out eight and, perhaps most important of all, threw 110 pitches.

The last of those pitches was a 98 mph fastball that struck out a Rangers pinch hitter Will Brennan. As he stalked off the mound, Cole pumped his arms and screamed, the intensity on his face suggesting a person who knew he had done the job he was asked to do.

He emptied the tank for his team.

“I do that every time I perform,” Cole said.

The big blow for the Yankees’ offense was struck by an emerging postseason hero Harrison Baderwho clubbed a two-run homer off a Cleveland starter Cal Quantrill in the second to give New York an early 3-0 advantage.

Bader was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals at the trade deadline while he was on the injured list with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. By the time he was able to work his way back and begin his Yankee career, the season was winding down, and he played in just 14 games for New York during the regular season, hitting .217 with no home runs.

He is making up for lost time. Bader’s home run on Sunday was his third of the postseason. Bader, who grew up a Yankees fan, joined quite the list. In the storied history of the franchise, the only other Yankees center fielders to homer at least three times in a single postseason were Bernie Williams (three times) and Mickey Mantle (twice).

“I’m grateful and fortunate for the opportunity,” Bader said. “And every day I wake up, it feels good to be a Yankee. I carry that on the field, carry that in my preparation.”

With Cole reducing the New York bullpen’s workload to six batters, Boone was able to use a closer Clay Holmes for three outs in the eighth and left Wanda Peralta finish it in the ninth. Both pitchers faced the segment of the Rangers’ order they were best suited for, just as Boone would have written it.

“It lined up pretty well for us tonight,” Boone said. “You start looking back, it’s like, man, every little thing that puts somebody in a little better position moving forward is always big.”

While Holmes’ availability or lack thereof has become a hot topic in the series, before Sunday’s game, Boone said he could pitch in back-to-back games if he responds well to the first outing. Finding out if that happened is sure to be a topic during Boone’s pregame news conference Monday at Yankee Stadium before Game 5.

Meanwhile, Peralta put down Cleveland in order in the ninth on just seven pitches. While the outing made it three appearances in three days for the veteran lefty, Boone said the effectiveness of the outing made it possible that Peralta could be available for the series finale.

And because of Cole’s outing, the rest of the New York bullpen will be fully rested. Jameson Taillon will draw the Game 5 assignment for New York, going against Cleveland righty Aaron Civale.

“There’s definitely going to be a little bit more adrenaline and stuff when you step into Yankee Stadium,” Taillon said. “I’m going to keep my day as normal as possible.”

While the Yankees’ beleaguered bullpen appears to be in good shape for the playoffs, so will Cleveland’s bullpen after manager Terry Francona avoided using any of his big three relievers — Emmanuel Class, James Karinchak and Trevor Stephan — during the two games in Cleveland.

In other words, it will be all hands on deck as the $68 million Rangers try to knock off the $246 million Yankees.

“If you had told me back in March, we were just signed up to play Game 5 in New York, to go to the ALCS,” Francona said, “I would have trotted to New York. I mean, this is … I’m excited .”

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