NEW YORK — Gerrit Cole cruised for most of the night, Harrison Bader and Anthony Rizzo homered and the New York Yankees beat the Cleveland Guardians 4-1 on Tuesday in their AL Division Series opener.
Not even another Josh Donaldson baserunning blunder could slow the Yankees, who have won six straight postseason games against Cleveland dating to a comeback from a 2-0 deficit in the 2017 Division Series.
After rookie Steven Kwan put the Guardians ahead with a third-inning homer, Bader saved a run by cutting off José Ramírez’s gapper to left-center and forcing Amed Rosario to hold at third. Cole escaped a bases-loaded jam by striking out Andrés Giménez.
“That may be the at-bat of the game right there,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
Cole was up to 60 pitches but needed just eight in the fourth and allowed just two more runners, on a single and his only walk. He got the win in his first postseason game for the Yankees in the Bronx. He left after giving up one run and four hits in 6 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts.
“We did a really good job early of driving his pitch count up,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “And then he had a real quick fourth inning, that kind of got him back into the game.”
Jonathan Loáisiga, Wandy Peralta and Clay Holmes finished with two-hit relief to begin the best-of-five matchup.
Coming off a two-game sweep of Tampa Bay in the wild-card round, Cleveland struck out nine times, after having the fewest in the major leagues during the regular season.
The AL East champion Yankees, meanwhile, returned from a five-day layoff and got off to exactly the kind of start they wanted in the postseason.
Bader, acquired from St. Louis at the trade deadline, was back in the ballpark where he sat in the first-base seats to watch the 2009 postseason as a 15-year-old attending Horace Mann School, 5 miles away.
“It’s an atmosphere I’m very familiar with,” Bader said.
He tied the score 1-1 in the third when he reached down for Cal Quantrill’s sinker and sent it over the left-field wall, igniting a loud sellout crowd of 47,807 that had been standing for much of the early innings of the Yankees’ first home postseason game since 2019.
Jose Trevino hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the fifth after Isiah Kiner-Falefa reached on a single into the right-field corner and Wild Card Series star Oscar Gonzalez allowed the ball to bounce throw his legs for a two-base error.
Rizzo, who caught the final out of the Chicago Cubs’ Game 7 World Series win over Cleveland six years ago, chased Quantrill with a drive into the right-field second desk in the sixth after Aaron Judge walked.
An inning earlier, Donaldson made another of the lack-of-hustle gaffes marking his first season in New York. With the score tied 1-1, the former AL MVP led off the fifth with a drive that hit the top of the 10-foot wall in right field, just in front of a fan’s hands, and bounced back onto the field.
Donaldson went into a trot, thinking it was a home run, and even high-fived first base coach Travis Chapman.
Gonzalez grabbed the ball off the carom and threw to shortstop Amed Rosario, who was standing on second. Donaldson was midway between first and second, and Rosario took a few steps and tossed to first baseman Josh Naylor. Donaldson tried to slide back into first and was tagged out.
Right field umpire Mark Ripperger correctly ruled the ball in play and his call was confirmed in a video review.
Cleveland was playing on the 74th anniversary of its last World Series title.
Quantrill who had been 11-0 in his 17 previous starts, lost for the first time since July 5. He gave up four runs – three earned – four hits and three walks in five-plus innings.
Yankees rookie left fielder Oswaldo Cabrera made a leaping catch against the stands on Will Brennan leading off the fourth as his cap fell into the hands of a fan. Cabrera threw the ball back to the infield, took a step toward the wall as the fan tossed back his cap, then gave the spectator a high-five with his glove. Two pitches later, Donaldson snagged Austin Hedges’ grounder as he slid into foul territory, then got up and made a strong throw to first to retire the slow-footed catcher.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Sixty people were lined up from home plate to short right field when the Yankees were introduced, starting with 17 support staff that cover athletic training, massage therapy, strength and conditioning, equipment and translation. They were followed by seven coaches, 26 non-starting players, the starting lineup and manager Aaron Boone.
Guardians: RHP Nick Sandlin (strained shoulder) was dropped along with LHP Kirk McCarty, and RHPs Aaron Civale and Cody Morris were added.
Yankees: INF DJ LeMahieu was left off the roster and may have a broken bone under the second toe of his right foot. … RHP Scott Effross needed Tommy John surgery.
After an unusual day off between Games 1 and 2, LHP Nestor Cortes (12-4) starts for the Yankees against RHP Shane Bieber (13-8) on Thursday. Rain is in the forecast.
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