The New York Yankees desperately needed to get out to an early lead over the Cleveland Guardians in Game 5 for a multitude of reasons. First off, Aaron Civale, who the Yankees have tattooed whenever they face him, was starting the game.
Secondly, Nestor Cortes was pitching on short rest and the Guards had the bullpen edge, especially with ace Shane Bieber in the mix after the extra rest day due to the Monday rainout.
When Aaron Judge struck out in the first inning after Gleyber Torres worked a leadoff walk, you might’ve been understandably thinking, “Here we go again.”
But then Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch and Giancarlo Stanton worked a 2-0 count before rocketing a line drive over the short porch to make it a 3-0 game.
Yankee Stadium was erupting in the bottom of the first. The Yanks had their early lead and Stanton fired up the crowd with his bat toss and celebration.
Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge hit homers, but collision kills momentum
After Cortes got out of an easy second inning, Judge came back to the plate and demolished a curveball into the right field seats. His solo shot made it 4-0, and his third hit of the series was a huge one. Really needed that one after his struggles outside of the Game 3 homer.
But … did you think this game would coast nicely until the end? It was only the third inning! Two-thirds of this game still needed to be completed!
In the top of the third, Aaron Hicks was forced to leave the game after a nasty collision with Oswaldo Cabrera as the two (and Josh Donaldson!) converged on a weak popup. The runners were safe, Hicks appeared to hurt his knee, Marwin Gonzalez came into the game, and the bases were loaded after Cortes issued a walk.
That was about the 15th time this series the Yankees couldn’t make a play on a looper to left field. Perhaps time to adjust the defensive alignments? Better yet, the infielders should maybe — no, definitely — back off whenever the outfielders are calling them off.
The Yankees had all the momentum after that 4-0 lead, but this stoppage in the game that forced Gonzalez into action, followed by the Guardians getting back a run, took shine off of Stanton’s and Judge’s blasts.
Apologies if this sounds pessimistic, but the Yankees had everything going for them until an avoidable, boneheaded defensive play that’s played out almost the exact same way multiple times in the first four games of the series. That one’s on Cabrera, too.
Deep breaths. A few more runs could turn this energy around quickly.