The New York Yankees got ahead early on the Cleveland Guardians and never gave up their lead as they won Game 5, 5-1, to stay alive in the postseason on Tuesday night.
The Yankees now move on to face the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the ALCS on Wednesday night at 7:07 p.m. ET.
It was a dream scenario for the Yankees to start this game, with Nestor Cortes going 1-2-3 in the first inning followed by a three-run homer by Giancarlo Stanton that effectively knocked Guardians starter Aaron Civale out of the game after making just a single out.
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Civale was ushered into his dugout by manager Terry Francona after a Josh Donaldson infield single, and the bullpen chess match began a lot earlier than expected for one team.
Aaron Judge, who entered the game 2-for-16 in the series, tacked on one more run in the bottom of the second inning when he took Sam Hentges’s hanging curveball over the right field wall to get the Yankee Stadium crowd going crazy again.
The extra day of rest allowed Cortes to start this game, and it was the right call by manager Aaron Boone to hand him the ball after what he put together. He allowed three total hits and one earned run over five innings of work, throwing just 61 pitches with two strikeouts and one walk.
The only trouble he found himself in was another baserunner on a bloop hit to left field that dropped despite a few Yankees around it in the top of the third inning.
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Steven Kwan put his head down at the plate in disgust after hitting it, but Oswaldo Cabrera and Aaron Hicks collided with the ball falling and allowing runners on first and second base with one out. Hicks would exit the game and go to the hospital for an MRI with a left leg injury.
Cortes would go on to walk Guardians shortstop Amed Rosario, but it could’ve been much worse with Jose Ramirez at the plate with bases loaded. He hit a sacrifice fly to score one run and then Oscar Gonzalez flew out to end the inning.
Anthony Rizzo would get that run by for the Yankees in the bottom of the fifth, when he choked up with two strikes and two outs and served a ball into center field to score Gleyber Torres from second base.
While the Guardians bullpen put in work throughout the game, the Yankees’ group did their jobs once Cortes was called out in the fifth. First, it was Jonathan Loaisiga, giving the Yankees two innings of work, allowing three hits but no runs while striking out two.
He was threatened with two singles in the top of the sixth inning, but eventually got out of the jam with a strikeout on Gabriel Arias.
Clay Holmes, then, went 1-2-3 in the eighth inning, striking out two of the three hitters he faced.
With three outs to go, Wandy Peralta got Josh Naylor to ground out, Andres Gimenez to strike out, and
The Astros and Yankees have long been rivals, especially in these postseason scenarios. Houston, who has made six straight ALCS series, saw them in 2017 and 2019 for two of them and won them both.
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The latest was in 2019 when Aroldis Chapman hung a slider to Jose Altuve in Game 6 that sent the Astros to the World Series, where they would eventually lose to the Washington Nationals.