Bronx, NY– Nestor Cortes and the Yankees arrived at the stadium on Tuesday afternoon with the intention of boarding a flight to Houston later in the evening. The one barricade holding up their ALCS trip? The Cleveland Guardians.
Before the winner-take-all Game 5 of the ALDS between Cleveland and New York, an abundance of storylines surfaced, with MLB leading as the main culprit. Due to rain, rain and more rain, fans were faced with two postponements in the matter of six days. And count in, a two hour rain delay on Monday night eventually called off around 10pm ET, rescheduled for the following day…
A momentum shift that changed everyday with each team dealing with excruciating challenges such as setting their starting pitching, adjusting the bullpen, and overall, compartmentalizing the battle of postseason baseball.
“You know, yesterday turned into a long day obviously,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone leading up to Game 5. “You know, but we kind of turned the page and really lock-in on what’s in front of us today.”
‘Lock-in’ was an understatement as the Yankees began Game 5 with pure aggressiveness out the gates. Left-hander Nestor Cortes started on short-rest and didn’t show a glimpse of fatigue or soreness. The 27-year-old, of Surgidero de Batabanó, Cuba, finished the first three innings with 40 pitches, 26 for strikes, compromising Cleveland hitters with his dynamic delivery to the plate on multiple occasions.
“Our season was on the line tonight, or today, said Cortes. “I knew yesterday when Aaron Boone told me that I was starting today, he basically told me, you know, give us whatever you’ve got, whether it’s one, whether it’s three, whether it’s five.”
In his second career postseason outing, the true competitor Cortes totaled five innings pitched with one earned run over three hits and one walk while fanning two.
“I thought his stuff was a little better actually,” said Boone when comparing Cortes’ Game 5 outing to Game 2. “He was in and out there a little bit. But, man, what an effort.”
“Just the legend of Nestor,” he added.
The offense impersonated a ‘Bronx Bombers production’ as the Yankees propelled to a 3-0 lead within their first four batters. Gleyber Torres and Anthony Rizzo began the jolt with a walk and hit by pitch, leading to Giancarlo Stanton getting a hold of a 2-0, 87 MPH cutter off Guardians right-hander Aaron Civale.
— MLB (@MLB) October 18, 2022
“That was when we are at our best, making you come into the zone,” Boone elaborated. “Gleyber sets the tone with a really good at-bat right out of the chute, and even Judge goes 3-2. Rizzo with a really good at-bat and then obviously big G.”
“I knew from that moment on, all I had to do was throw strikes and be able to get us as deep as possible,” said Cortes.
This marked Stanton’s 11th home run of his postseason career, matching Carlos Beltrán for the most HR by any player in MLB history through his first 23 career postseason games. And to go further, Stanton (2014 National League LatinoMVP) has 10 HR in his last 15 postseason games, dating back to Game 1 of the 2019 American League Championship Series.
But, an ultimate factor across this series was Wandy Peralta, who became the first Yankees pitcher in franchise history to appear in all five games of an ALDS. The left-handed reliever, of San Francisco de Macoris, Dominican Republic recorded a 3.00 ERA in the series with a total of six innings pitched, four hits, seven strikeouts, and a save.
“It’s so exciting to be in the game in situations like that,” said Peralta through a team translator. “And, yeah, you know, they have given me the confidence to be in those games, and for me, we just have to keep doing our job. You know, work, keep doing our job and focus and expect to be in there in those games.”
His teammate and alternate enforcer out of the bullpen, Jonathan Loáisiga (2021 American League LatinoMVP Reliever of the Year) has returned to full form, appearing in four of the five games in the ALDS. The 27-year-old totaled five innings pitched with six hits allowed and three strikeouts in the series against Cleveland.
Perhaps, an indication that Loáisiga (Managua, Nicaragua) has become a reliable postseason go-to in high leverage situations.
The Yankees stood their ground with a 5-1 victory to shut the door on the Guardians season. What’s next on the agenda for New York? A flight heading to Houston for an ALCS showdown, or in other words, the trilogy.
As we all know, the Astros and Yankees have experienced their fair share of drama dating back to 2017, with two ALCS matchups (2017 and 2019), both won by Houston.
“Yeah, we’re excited, said Cortes. “You know, everybody knows, we know, the whole world knows what kind of an Astros team they are. They run well. They hit well. They pitch well. They are a complete team. And I like to say that we are, too.”
“You know, we’ll walk in there with some confidence,” said Boone. “We know they (Astros) are a great team and rested and ready. We look forward to the challenge.”
With Game 1 set for Wednesday evening at 7:37pm, the matchup the baseball spectrum has anticipated for all season long begins. Get your popcorn ready.
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Robert Rizzo is the assistant editor for Latino Sports
Follow on Twitter: @RobertRiz994
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