After leading the best-of-five American League Division Series two games to one, the Guardians lost the last two. Cleveland has lost eight straight winner-take-all games in the postseason.
The power surge the Yankees have been looking for finally surfaced at the apropos time. They used their best weapons, weapons that were dormant the first four games, power hitters Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, to put the Guardians in a dark place early.
Stanton unloaded a three-run home run in the first inning and Judge connected for a solo shot in the second to quickly lift the Yankees to a four-run lead.
And Yankees starter Nestor Cortes, pitching on three days rest, took it from there. The mustachioed left-hander with more deliveries than a UPS driver, stifled the singles-hunting Guardians on one run and three hits over a five-inning 61-pitch appearance.
Muscling up is the way the Yankees operated during the regular season, doubling up on the Guardians in home runs, 254 to 127.
In contrast, the Guardians led the league in infield hits as the youngest team in the majors with one-third the payroll of the Yankees.
The Yankees had only six hits in the finale, but two of New York’s hits were the home runs that accounted for four runs. The Guardians had eight singles, two of the infield variety and a couple of bloops.
While the Yankees hit only .182 in the five games, they made the most of nine home runs. The Guardians hit only three homers.
So the inevitable happened and the Guardians put away their bats for the season. Using the build-from-within method — 17 players on the post-season roster made their major league debut this season — the Guardians have made the playoffs in 13 of the past 28 years, but haven’t won a World Series.
They were in the World Series twice, losing to the then Florida Marlins in 1997 and losing to the Chicago Cubs in 2016. They haven’t won a World Series since 1948.
It has been a shorter dry spell for the Yankees. They won the World Series in 2009 against the Philadelphia Phillies.
With Monday’s rainout, Yankee manager Aaron Boone switched starting pitchers, taking down Taillon and slipping in Cortes.
Steven Kwan opened the game with a single to right, his eighth hit in the postseason, most ever for a Cleveland batter. Larry Doby, the first African American to appear in the American League, had seven hits in the six-game 1948 World Series against the Boston Braves.
Kwan never budged from first base because Amed Rosario popped up a bunt, Jose Ramirez (0 for 11 with five strikeouts against Cortes) popped to short and Oscar Gonzalez lined softly to third.
Then came the New York first and Cleveland starter Aaron Civale never broke a sweat before he was out of the game. He gave up three runs before fans could devour their Big Fly chicken and waffle sandwich.
Civale displayed his nervousness by walking leadoff batter Gleyber Torres. He struck out Judge but hit Anthony Rizzo with a pitch. The plate-crowding Rizzo has been hit 201 times, 30 times in one season.
That brought up Stanton, 1 for 12 with five strikeouts. The one hit was a home run and he quickly made it two home runs. He picked on a high cutter and line it into the short porch in right field.
And in the blink of an eye the Yankees led, 3-0. When Josh Donaldson followed with a single, Civale’s short day was done, replaced by Sam Hentges.
The thunder continued in the second inning, this time from Judge, the all-time American League home run king with 62 this season.
Like Stanton, Judge was a non-factor in the first four games — 2 for 15 with nine strikeouts in the first four games. One of those two hits was a home run … and he made it two home runs. He, too, reached the inviting right field wall for a home run and a 4-0 Yankees lead.
Cleveland spliced together a rally in the third and loaded the bases but scored only one run.
Austin Hedges led with a solid single to left center. With one out, Kwan lobbed one to shallow left. Three Yankees converged as left fielder Aaron Hicks and shortstop Osvaldo Cabrera collided.
The ball fell in for a hit and Hicks left the game with an injured knee. After the delay, Cortes walked Rosario on four pitches to fill the bases.
Ramirez, hoping for a grand slam, flied out to center field, a sacrifice fly to put Cleveland on the board and cut New York’s margin to 4-1.
The Guardians, though, were even remiss on a chance for a call reversal. With two outs in the fourth, Andres Gimenez grounded to first baseman Rizzo.
He dashed to the bag and dove head first while Gimenez slid spikes first and was called out. Television replay showed that Gimenez was safe. But the Guardians did not challenge, and the inning was over.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona followed Civale with a parade of his multi-talented bullpenners — Hentges, Trevor Stephan, James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase.
The Yankees extracted a run off Karinchak in the fifth when he walked Torres to open the inning and he stole second and scored on Rizzo’s single to make it 5-1.
Jonathan Loaisaga replaced Cortes in the sixth and the Guardians mounted a mini-rally that amounted to nothing.
Rosario opened with an infield single and took second on a single by Ramirez, putting runners on second and first with no outs.
But it ended quickly when Oscar Gonzalez grounded out, Josh Naylor lined out and Gabriel Arias struck out.
After Cortes left, Loaisaga (two innings), Clay Holmes (one inning) and Wandy Peralta (one inning) kept the Guardians quiet, no runs over the last four innings as they went quietly into the night.