About Last Night: Yankees 4, Guardians 1
by Paul Semendinger
October 12, 2022
The Yankees got the playoffs off to a great start, winning Game One of the American League Division Series 4-1 over the Cleveland Guardians last night. Starting pitcher Gerrit Cole was outstanding. There were some big hits. The bullpen held the lead. And the Yankees have a one game advantage in this "Best-of-Five" series.
Let's get right to it:
I was concerned that Gerrit Cole was not the pitcher who should start the series. Yet, he is the team's "Ace," even if his results were not the best on the staff in 2022. In this game, Gerrit Cole proved me, and any critical wrong. BIG TIME. He pitched into the seventh inning, allowing just one run and striking out eight. This was the kind of performance the Yankees needed to begin the playoffs. Gerrit Cole was terrific and because of his great start, the Yankees are in excellent shape at the start of the series.
Harrison Bader got the Yankees scoring started when he hit a solo home run in the bottom of the third inning to tie the game at 1-1. This was a big hit because, to that point, the Yankees had not yet had a hit. Even more, it was an immediate response to the Guardians scoring (on a Steven Kwan homer) in the top of the inning. When a team comes right back, it sends a strong message to the opponent. Because of Bader's homer, the Yankees came right back.
Back to Gerrit Cole - One bad pitching trend that was present in his outings, especially in September, was he often gave up run (or more) in the inning immediately after the Yankees scored. After Bader's homer, Cole went out and retired the Guardians in order. That was huge.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Isiah KIner-Falefa had a huge three-base single that helped change the tone of the game. The score at that point was still 1-1, it was a battle... the pervious batter (Josh Donaldson) was thrown out at first after he thought he hit a home run (more on that below) on a terrific heads-up play by the Guardians' right fielder Oscar Gonzalez. On IKF's hit, Gonzalez played the single into a "triple." IKF then scored on a Jose Trevino sacrifice fly. That second run, was huge in that spot. It gave the Yankees the lead they would not relinquish.
Following the lead, Gerrit Cole again came back and retired the Guardians in order with two strikeouts. Boom. Statement made.
In the next half-inning, the bottom of the sixth, Aaron Judge led off with a walk and Anthony Rizzo followed with a loud two-run homer. BOOM! That quickly, it was 4-1 Yankees and the game just felt over.
Gerrit Cole recorded one out in the seventh and then left following a line drive single off the glove of IKF, a ball he probably should have caught. If IKF makes that play, Cole probably pitches through the seventh inning. This stays in the "Good" column because the bullpen took over (Jonathan Loaisiga, Wandy Peralta, and Clay Holmes) and allowed no runs over the final 2.2 innings. The fact that the bullpen, which is ravaged by injuries and question marks, locked the game down in such fashion is huge.
The Yankees are in great shape at the start of this series following this win.
(There is not much to complain about, but...)
I was not pleased that the Yankees left Oswald Peraza, the best fielding shortstop, off the roster. Isiah KIner-Falefa made an error in the top of the first and probably should have caught the line drive in the seventh. IFK is a solid enough shortstop, but it would have been nice to have another option, at least for the late innings. To the Yankees' credit, neither play hurt them, at all.
Gerrit Cole gave up the first run of the game on a home run to Steven Kwan in the top of the third. There was a sense of "here we go again." Cole has put the Yankees behind often enough and he gives up a lot of home runs. Cole then hit a batter, gave up a double, and then, on a less-than-stellar play by Anthony Rizzo and Jose Trevino, saw the bases loaded with just one out. This was the moment when a pitcher might crack, but Cole kept it together and got the next two batters out, the last (Gonzalez) by strike out.
The aforementioned play with Rizzo and Trevino came on a ground ball to first with runners on second and third and only one out. Rizzo fielded the ball and threw home to catch Amad Rosario who was coming home and stopped, turned around, and made it back to third safely. That play felt like it could be huge because no outs were recorded and the bases were now loaded. But Cole got a ground out (force at home) and a strikeout to end the frame.
The force at home came on a nice fielding play by Josh Donaldson, who later hit a long fly ball off the top of the right field wall and assumed it was a home run (it was that close) and was then thrown out retreating to first after getting into his home run trot only to realize the ball was still in play.
MLB scheduled an off day today. That makes little sense. Worse, the weather forecast for Thursday calls for rain. Is it possible that the Yankees won't play again until Friday?
Gerrit Cole: 6.1 innings pitched, 4 hits, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts, 1 run
Aaron Judge: 0-for 3, 3 strikeouts (He did walk and score on Anthony Rizzo's home run)
Giancarlo Stanton: 0-for 2 (with a walk)
Josh Donaldson: 2-for 2
IKF: 1-for-2 (a big one-out single turned into a "triple")
Home Runs: Harrison Bader and Anthony Rizzo
The Yankees are now 3-0 vs Cleveland in playoff games on October 11.
As noted above, the Yankees played a good crisp quality first game of the series. They played like they belonged on the big stage (which they do). Aaron Boone pressed all the right buttons. There were quality plays and big hits. Gerrit Cole pitched great. The bullpen held it together. The Yankees won the all-important first game. Player(s) of the Game:
Harrison Bader (runner-up)
Anthony Rizzo (runner, runner-up)
With an off-day today, the Yankees next play tomorrow (weather permitting). Nestor Cortes will pitch against Shane Bieber. (A rainout would essentially make it so that Bieber can only pitch once in the series, but I'd rather they get the game in and win outright to go up two games to none.)