NEW YORK (AP) — Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge staggered Cleveland with early homers, and the New York Yankees rocked past the Guardians 5-1 Tuesday in the decisive Game 5 of their AL Division Series, setting up another rematch with Houston for the pennant.
With two on and two outs in the ninth and ace Gerrit Cole warming up in case, Myles Straw hit a game-ending grounder to shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who threw to second for the final out.
Gleyber Torres stepped on the bag to end it, then mimicked rocking a baby with the ball — a jab at Guardians slugger Josh Naylor, who made the motion rounding the bases after a homer off Cole in Game 4.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone won his gamble by starting Nestor Cortes on three days’ rest over Jameson Taillon, making the late switch after Monday night’s rain caused a postponement.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona stayed the course with Aaron Civale instead of switching to 2020 Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber on short rest. Civale had trouble throwing strikes, and the Guardians never recovered from Stanton’s three-run homer just 21 pitches in.
Taillon will start Wednesday night’s AL Championship Series opener at Houston, which goes with Justin Verlander. The AL matchup features the league’s top two regular-season teams in the 106-win Astros and 99-win Yankees, a contrast to the NL championship between wild-card San Diego and Philadelphia.
Houston beat the Yankees in a seven-game championship series in 2017 and over six games in 2019. The Astros went on to their first World Series title in 2017 but later were found to have used a video camera to signal opposition pitches to their batters.
Cortes dominated with three-hit ball for five innings for the win.
“Just a cherry on top,” Cortes said.
Jonathan Loáisiga, Clay Holmes and Wandy Peralta finished with five-hit scoreless relief.
“Just the legend of Nestor,” Boone said. “Honestly going in, I would have been really excited about 10 batters.”
Cortes gave him more than that and the bullpen closed it out. As the sellout crowd of 48,178 cheered, the Yankees lined up across the field for handshakes, much like after regular-season wins.
AL East champion New York, seeking its 28th title and first since 2009, may be without Aaron Hicks in Houston. The left fielder came out of the game after hurting his left knee in a third-inning collision with rookie shortstop Oswaldo Cabrera.
New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Judge reacts after the Yankees defeated the Cleveland Guardians Game 5 of an American League Division baseball series, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)