Gonzalez and Guardians leave Yankees for 2-1 lead over ALDS

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CLEVELAND — The affable rookie who loves SpongeBob SquarePants backed the New York Yankees into a playoff corner.

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Oscar Gonzalez hit a two-out two-run single in the ninth inning, rallying the Cleveland Guardians to a 6-5 win over New York on Saturday night for a 2-1 lead in their AL Division Series.

Gonzalez, a playoff hero just a week ago, doubled a 1-2 pitch from Clarke Schmidt down the middle to score rookie Steven Kwan and Amed Rosario as the young Guardians, who showed no fear in the during this storybook season, rallied again and pushed the Yankees to the brink of elimination.

“We’ve seen it in two series so far like this,” Guardians starter Triston McKenzie said. “He comes in the 15th inning and hits a home run, has a game-winning hit in another game, has the hit tonight.

“There’s a level of maturity to the plate that you don’t see all the time.”

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Aaron Judge hit a two-run homer for New York, which led 5-3 in the ninth before its bullpen collapsed and the Guardians staged another comeback victory.

As Rosario ran through the plate, Gonzalez threw his helmet in the air as his teammates rushed onto the field to harass him. The 24-year-old outfielder hit a base hit in the 15th inning last week to sweep the Tampa Bay Rays in the wild card round.

Game 4 comes Sunday night, when the Yankees look to ace Gerrit Cole to prevent an early playoff exit.

“I love that Gerrit is on the mound,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Let’s get him. Tonight was obviously a heartbreaking ending, but we have to get over it. Now we obviously face this, but I still like our chances.

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Prior to Cleveland’s return, the Yankees were 167-0 in the playoffs entering the ninth inning with a multi-run lead.

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The win followed a familiar formula for the Guardians, who led the Majors with 29 wins in their final batting and have now done so twice in a week – both times with Gonzalez delivering the game-winning hit.

Gonzalez heads to the “SpongeBob SquarePants”-themed plate, a fitting anthem for baseball’s youngest team.

“I go out there singing the song because I have a great body,” Gonzalez said through a translator. “But deep down I feel like a child.”

After the game, Gonzalez rode a scooter down one of the hallways inside Progressive Field.

Gonzalez joined the Hall of Famer and fellow Dominican Republic native David Ortiz (2004) as the only players to have three or more hits in the ninth inning or later in a single postseason.

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“It’s amazing,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t know that stat, and I thank God for that and what makes it more special is that it comes from another countryman.”

With one out in the ninth, Myles Straw singled off Wandy Peralta and scampered to second when the ball went past left fielder Oswaldo Cabrera, who missed with a dive. Kwan then dropped a left hit and Boone brought in Schmidt.

Rosario followed with an RBI single to make it 5-4 before Jose Ramirez hit a single into open field on the left side which shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa stopped with a slide, preventing the point score equalizer.

Schmidt knocked out Josh Naylor on three pitches before Gonzalez had his second monumental moment in October.

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Before the home run a week ago, Gonzalez broke his belt sliding at second base and had to borrow first baseman coach Sandy Alomar’s belt before play resumed. It became a lucky charm for Gonzalez, who follows Alomar, a playoff hero in 1997 when Cleveland knocked out the Yankees in the Division Series.

“Something tells me Sandy will never see him again,” Gonzalez said.

The Yankees are in trouble. They were down 15-5 and will face a team with all the momentum when they try to force the best-of-five series back to Yankee Stadium for Game 5 on Monday.

“We lost a tough game,” Judge said. “We have to come back and do our thing the next two games and bring it back to the Bronx. It’s that simple. We’ve faced adversity all year, it’s nothing new for us.

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The judge scored a gigantic two-run homer, and Cabrera and Harrison Bader also connected for New York.

Judge’s 449-foot shot in the third inning against McKenzie was his first hit in 10 at-bats in the series. The timing couldn’t have been better as the Yankees needed a spark and received a seismic jolt from baseball’s most feared hitter.

However, the Yankees bullpen, which has been plagued with injuries and inconsistencies, could not protect the lead. It also hurt that Boone didn’t have Aroldis Chapman, who was cut from the playoff roster when he skipped a practice, and Clay Holmes had pitched the previous two games.

Cabrera hit a two-run homer and Bader added a solo shot for the Yankees, his second of the series.

Propelled by a sold-out crowd dressed in red – there was also the usual crowd of boisterous New York fans – the Guardians went ahead early but squandered scoring chances against starter Luis Severino.

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In Game 4, Cole will face Cal Quantrill, the same match as the first game.

The winner of this series advances to the ALCS to face the Houston Astros, who swept Seattle.

With Judge in a fall funk, Boone woke up Saturday with the idea of ​​knocking the home run king off the No. 1 spot in the No. 2 hole and making several changes to his lineup.

Judge struck out for the eighth time in nine at bats in the series his first time.

He did not miss his second trip.

With Cabrera down third, Judge threw a 2-1 shot from McKenzie over the 19-foot-high wall into the deepest part of Progressive Field, with the explosion threatening to find an exit from the ballpark on Eagle Avenue.

It was Judge’s 12th career homer in the playoffs and No. 63 overall this year after breaking Roger Maris’ 61-year-old AL homer record.

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RESCUE FILE

The Guardians bullpen didn’t allow a run over 19 innings in this postseason before Bader connected to Sam Hentges. The streak ended close to tying the major league record held by the Baltimore Orioles in 1983.

HOME RUN

Quantrill has an unblemished track record at home. He is unbeatable.

The right-hander is 14-0 with a 2.88 ERA in 44 career games — 34 starts — at Progressive Field. His 14-game winning streak at home is the longest in stadium history.

Quantrill couldn’t explain his dominance in Cleveland, and he’s not about to start trying.

“Some part is probably a bit random, but I like throwing here,” Quantrill said. “I like the routine of working here and preparing. Things have gone well.

HAPPY HOMER

The Yankees extended their major league record by hitting a home run in their 20th consecutive playoff game. The streak began in Game 1 of the 2019 ALDS. The next longest streaks are 14-player streaks for the Dodgers (2020-21) and Astros (2017-18).

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Cole was the Game 1 winner after allowing one run and four hits in 6 1/3 innings. Quantrill lost Game 1, giving up three earned runs – two home runs – in more than five innings.

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