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.
AL Central champion Cleveland, the youngest team in the majors and with a $68 million payroll that’s a fraction of the Yankees’ $274 million, remained without a championship since 1948. The Guardians led 2-1 in the best-of-five series before the Yankees won 4-2 behind Cole on Sunday to force the series back to New York.
“I know they are hurting right now, because they care, and they worked unbelievably hard,” Francona said. “This needs to be a starting place for us. This can’t just be a good story this year. We need to take this and go, because I think we have a chance to have something really special.”
Cleveland has lost 11 straight postseason elimination games, a major league record. The Guardians seemed jarred by the early deficit and failed to ask for a video review in the fourth inning when Andrés Giménez clearly beat a diving Anthony Rizzo to the first-base bag. Francona said he ran out of time.
Rain had cleared out and the game began with left and center field in brilliant sunshine on a 57-degree afternoon. There were scattered empty seats for the 4:07 p.m. start, and fans loudly booed Naylor whose exuberant “rock the baby” home run trot Sunday got New York’s attention.
Fans serenaded Naylor with rocking motions and chanted “Who’s Your Daddy!” as they did for Boston’s Pedro Martinez two decades earlier.
Cortes, a fan favorite with his hesitation delivery that he used in the fifth, allowed one run, struck out two and walked one while throwing 61 pitches.
Stanton and Judge homered twice each in the series, and New York outhomered Cleveland 9-3 while scoring 16 of its 20 runs on long balls. Judge became the first player with four homers in winner-take-all postseason games, breaking a tie with Yogi Berra, Moose Skowron, Stanton, Didi Gregorius and Troy O’Leary.
Civale, a 27-year-old right-hander, was in Cleveland’s rotation before being sidelined three times this season with injuries. He appeared flustered, throwing just 12 of 26 pitches for strikes, getting only one swing and miss and just one out.
Torres walked on four pitches leading off, Judge struck out on a full-count curveball and Civale hit Rizzo on the left thigh with a pitch.
Civale started Stanton with an outside curveball in the dirt, and pitching coach Carl Willis went to the mound. Civale threw a cutter that missed low and outside. and catcher Austin Hedges set up on the low, outside corner, Civale left a cutter up and Stanton lined it 379 feet into the short right-field porch, a drive that would be a home run in only three of the 30 major league ballparks.
Civale faced just one more batter, leaving after Josh Donaldson’s infield single.
“He just didn’t come out commanding very well,” Francona said. “I felt terrible taking him out that quickly, but I just didn’t think we could give up any more.”
Judge hit an opposite-field drive to right in the second on a curveball from left-hander Sam Hentges, Judge’s 13th postseason homer. The Yankees are 27-2 when Stanton and Judge homer in the same game.
José Ramírez drove Cleveland’s run with a sacrifice fly in the third after the bloop single down the left-field line by rookie Steven Kwan, the play that caused Hicks’ injury. Kwan was 9 for 21 (.429) in the series.
Playoff rounds overlapped onto the same day for the first time in Major League Baseball history, with the NL Championship Series starting about 50 minutes after the final out.
Rizzo and Yankees teammates Kiner-Falefa and Harrison Bader all were hit by pitches.
Yankees: Hicks was headed to a hospital for an MRI. … RHPs Ron Marinaccio and Frankie Montas were at Yankee Stadium and set to travel to Houston for possible activation. … OF Andrew Benintendi (wrist) is unlikely.
Yankees: Planned to land in Houston late Tuesday night for the ALCS opener.
Guardians: Open the season at Seattle on March 30.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports