On Thursday, a rainout following an unusual day off created the possibility of the New York Yankees and Cleveland Guardians needing to play four straight days to decide who will advance to the American League Championship Series.
That is the exact scenario when the Yankees host the Guardians for Game 5 of the AL Division Series Monday night.
In what may become a bullpen game for both teams, Jameson Taillon will start for the Yankees against the Guardians’ Aaron Civale.
“We’re ready for it,” Taillon said. “It is a big opportunity.”
New York opened the series with a 4-1 win Tuesday but instead of playing Game 2 on Wednesday, the teams worked out in the sunshine. A day later, Game 2 was postponed due to heavy rain, and the teams played three straight close games to set up a decisive fifth contest.
The teams are meeting in a fifth game for the third time. Cleveland won Game 5 in 1997, and the Yankees won Game 5 in 2017.
Cleveland evened the series with a 4-2 victory Friday when Oscar Gonzalez hit a tiebreaking single in the 10th inning off Taillon. The Yankees were one strike away from winning Game 3 until Gonzalez hit a bases-loaded single to drive in two runs and give Cleveland a 6-5 win on Saturday.
Facing elimination, the Yankees evened the series with a 4-2 victory when Gerrit Cole pitched seven innings and Harrison Bader hit a two-run homer, giving the center fielder three homers in the series.
After Cole finished his 110-pitch outing, Clay Holmes pitched the eighth after appearing in the first two games but not Game 3, and Wandy Peralta needed only seven pitches in the ninth for the save.
“It’s all hands on deck tomorrow,” Holmes said. “It’s Game 5, win or go home. Anybody can throw a pitch.”
Cleveland is hoping the production in Game 5 will more closely resemble Saturday’s comeback. On Saturday, the Guardians went 9-for-17 with runners in scoring position and had 15 hits, but in Game 4, they had six hits, struck out 11 times and were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
Taillon will get the ball for his first career postseason start after not retiring any of the three batters he faced in the 10th on Friday.
Taillon was 14-5 with a 3.91 ERA in 32 regular-season starts, working 177 1/3 innings. Although his outing is unlikely to last 7 1/3 innings like it did back on Sept. 27 against the Blue Jays, the Yankees are hoping for similar results, as he allowed just two runs on seven hits.
“Just go out and do what he did to clinch the division against Toronto,” Cole said of Taillon. “That was some good stuff.”
Taillon is 1-2 with a 3.94 ERA in three career starts against Cleveland. The right-hander pitched five innings against them on April 22 in New York, allowing one run and seven hits with no walks.
Civale was 5-6 with a 4.92 ERA in 20 regular-season starts and is pitching for the first time since Oct. 5 against Kansas City when he struck out nine and allowed two runs in six innings. Civale was on the injured list three times this season, but he also won his final three regular-season starts.
“I said, ‘Don’t you worry about when we take you out,’” Francona said. “‘Just keep pitching until we take you out.’ He seems like he’s in a good place.”
Civale was 0-2 with a 10.00 ERA in two regular-season starts against the Yankees this season. He was tagged for six runs in three innings on April 24 in New York and allowed four runs in six innings on July 2 in Cleveland.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Civale said. “Everyone that was there saw what it was like. It’s going to be crazy. It’s going to be a lot of screaming and a lot of fans.”
–Larry Fleisher, Field Level Media