The Cleveland Guardians have been one of the feel-good stories of this postseason but unfortunately their time may be running out. The Guardians fell 4-2 to the New York Yankees in Cleveland on Sunday, forcing a winner takes all Game Five today in the Bronx.
New York was able to jump on the Guardians early, building a 3-1 lead before Cleveland even touched their bats in the bottom of the third inning. Naylor and the gang put up a fight, but eventually the Yankees were able to add an insurance run and push Cleveland to the brink.
Josh Naylor was 1-for-4 on the night, but his one hit is sure to add some extra motivation to New York’s bulletin board. Naylor stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning and send Gerrit Cole’s 2-2 pitch over the right centerfield fence to pull the Guardians within one.
As he rounded the bases, Naylor started up the “rock the baby” motion, insinuating that Cole was his son. It was an interesting move considering Naylor was only 4-of-15 (.266) vs Cole going into last night’s clash, but the move certainly fired up the Cleveland crowd.
Cole was able to settle down and ended up pitching a gem, and now each team has one game left in New York to extend their season.
The Guardians were able to steal a game in New York, but now face the tough task of playing a closeout game on the road. While the degree of difficulty certainly increases, a young scrappy team like the Guardians may be the last team the Yankees want to see with their backs against the wall.
The Guardians are 1-1 on the road this postseason, but managed to post an impressive 46-35 record on the road during the regular season. And as we all know, the last time the Guardians were in the Bronx they were able to outlast the Yankees 4-2 in 10 innings.
With everything on the line tonight, you have to wonder what the pitching plan will be for Terry Francona and the gang. Using Triston McKenzie in relief seems unlikely since he just pitched on Saturday, but with an opportunity to reach their first ALCS since 2016 he could get the call to pitch an inning.
Francona has been masterful with the Guardians pitching staff this season and throughout the playoffs. So while this is an option, I truly don’t see McKenzie being used tonight when it would set them back in the ALCS.
Pitchers going on short rest is common in the postseason, but using McKenzie in Game Five on the 17th places you in a tight spot, as he would be knocked off his regular rest schedule until Game Three of the ALCS.
Game Five of the ALDS will kick off tonight at 7pm ET.