The Cleveland Guardians defeated the New York Yankees 6-5 in the first leg on Saturday in Game Three of the MLS Series. The Guardians recovered from trailing 5-3 in the ninth inning, scoring three runs to gain a 2-1 advantage in their best of five series. With another win, the Guardians will advance to play the Houston Astros for the AL Banner. (The Astros at ALDS beat the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night.)
The Yankees fell back early, with the Guardians flanked in the first and second innings to lead 2-0. The New York attack packed a pair of home runs giving them a 4-2 lead, including Aaron Judge’s first hit of the series:
Novice Luis Severino followed the same path his team did: rough at first, then smooth sailing. He left in the sixth with two contestants. One would score, trimming the Yankees’ lead to 4-3, but another home run (Harrison Bader) and New York’s Bullpen looked set to hold the 5-3 lead.
The Guardians huddled in ninth, with four straight one-time hits cutting the Yankees’ lead to one. Then Oscar Gonzalez performed a solo single and sealed the shocking victory for the Guardians.
Here are six things to know about the Guardians’ Game 3 win.
1. Gonzalez plays the hero again
Just last Saturday, Oscar Gonzalez showed up to finish the Guardians marathon match against the Tampa Bay Rays and put his name on the national stage. This win propelled The Guardians into the series. While Gonzalez had to make do with one song against the Yankees on Saturday, it helped the Guardians take an unlikely win.
When Luke Maile started off the bottom ninth, the Guardians had less than five percent of their winning expectations, according to FanGraphs. Things can change quickly in baseball, and that proved to be the case on Saturday. Miles Straw, Stephen Cowan, Amed Rosario and Jose Ramirez all led to a string of scoring and base loading. Josh Naylor later strikes, and the Guardians were on the verge of a final exit.
That’s when Gonzalez did this:
It’s worth noting that Yankees coach Aaron Boone tried to extend Wandy Peralta for a full second cycle, and that he called on Clark Schmidt – not Clay Holmes – to try to seal things up. The Rangers may have rallied behind their attack on the Super Singles anyway, but that means the Yankees will have more reason to look back at Game 3 with regret if they lose the series.
Of course, it didn’t matter which of that Guardians or Gonzalez. They simply have another reason to celebrate an unexpected hero.
2. Severino recovers from a difficult start
Severino finished his night off off a good start: 5 2/3 runs, eight runs, three runs, and no six-strokes on 106 throws. It was a win in many ways, as it represented a massive shift from the way his night began.
In other words, Severino was so shaky early on that coach Aaron Boone warmed Domingo Germain on the field during the second half.
Severino allowed three hits in the first half and then three more in the second. However, in both cases, he is stranded with two key players who, had they scored, could have broken the game early and lead to an entirely different outcome. Boone allowed Severino to start the third inning, and Severino rewarded his manager’s faith.
In fact, Severino corrected the ship from there, retiring 13 consecutive hitters until Andrés Giménez hit one ground in the sixth inning.
Severino’s peer, Triston Mackenzie, started the night in much better shape than the Yankees. However, towards the end of the evening, Mackenzie left after throwing five rounds and giving up four runs with four strokes and a walk.
2. The judge breaks the slack while jogging at home
As noted in the introduction, Judge delivered his first hit for ALDS and, thanks to the Yankees’ first-round farewell, from the postseason as a whole. According to Statcast, it was an explosion 449 feet long and had an exit velocity of 113.7 mph.
Judge entered Saturday mired in the worst slump of the season: 0-for-8 with seven strokes broken and a walk in the first two games.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but if we (we have a plan to shut down the judge), I’m not sure I really want to share it. It just doesn’t make sense,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said after Match 2. “I think sometimes — hitters just can’t push a button. As much as guys do, guys sometimes take 0-fors. Until you hit a string successfully, I don’t think anyone is going to stand up here and hit our chest. It’s very dangerous. We know that.”
Judge’s struggles were a surprise, in part because he just scored one of the best offensive seasons in history by breaking AL and Yankees records for one season at home (with 62 long balls) and competing for the AL Triple Crown.
3. Rising left players have big games
It was a good night and a good game for the rising left players.
Yankees’ Oswaldo Cabrera scored two hits: a third-half weakness that led to Judge’s two-stroke shot, and then two runs from his home in the fifth. His exit speed home was 104.8 mph and traveled 409 feet:
Cabrera appeared in only 44 competitions in the regular season, making him one of the least experienced players in the series.
On the other side of the field, Stephen Cowan of The Guardians scored three hits. He drove the bottom of the first with a double (then scored), ranked one run in the second with another, and then went back to ninth. He even scored a match win. Cowan was, of course, one of the most productive starters in the major leagues during the regular season, appearing in 147 games and collecting 5.5 wins over substitution, according to baseball reference calculations.
4. What does lead 2-1 . mean?
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but going 2-1 in a best of five streak is a big deal. Brilliant, our Dane Berry research revealed that teams that lead 2-1 in the LDS go on to win the series about 75 percent of the time. This appears to bode well for the Guardians’ chances of progressing to the ALCS. However, the Yankees will not be counted until they are officially eliminated.
5. What’s next
The Yankees and Guardians will meet again on Sunday in Cleveland for Game 4, and the Guardians will have the opportunity to close the series, while the Yankees will try to avoid elimination and force them back to New York for the deciding Game 5.
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