CLEVELAND – Rookie Oscar Gonzalez hit a two-run single with two outs in the ninth inning, rallying the Cleveland Guardians to a 6-5 win over the New York Yankees on Saturday night for a 2-1 lead in their AL Division Series.
Gonzalez, a hero earlier in the postseason as well, lined a 1-2 pitch from Clarke Schmidt through the middle to score rookie Steven Kwan and Amed Rosario as the young Guardians, who have shown no fear during this storybook season, rallied once again and pushed the Yankees to the brink of elimination.
Aaron Judge hit a two-run homer for New York, which carried a 5-3 lead into the ninth before its bullpen flopped and the Guardians staged yet another comeback win.
As Rosario crossed the plate, Gonzalez flung his helmet high in the air standing near first base as his teammates rushed onto the field to mob him. The 24-year-old outfielder hit a walk-off homer in the 15th inning last week to sweep the Tampa Bay Rays in the wild-card round.
Game 4 is Sunday night, when the Yankees turn to ace Gerrit Cole to prevent an early postseason exit.
Before Cleveland’s comeback, the Yankees were 167-0 in the postseason when entering the ninth inning with a multiple-run lead.
The win followed a familiar formula for the Guardians, who led the majors with 29 wins in their final at-bat this season and have now done it twice in a week – both times with Gonzalez delivering the game-winning hit.
Gonzalez walks to the plate to the theme song for “SpongeBob SquarePants,” a fitting anthem for baseball’s youngest team.
With one out in the ninth, Myles Straw blooped a single off Wandy Peralta and scampered to second when the ball got by left fielder Oswaldo Cabrera, who missed it with a dive. Kwan then dropped a base hit into left and Yankees manager Aaron Boone brought in Schmidt.
Rosario followed with an RBI single to make it 5-4 before Jose Ramirez fisted a ball to the open left side that shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa stopped with a slide, preventing the tying run from scoring.
Schmidt then struck out Josh Naylor on three pitches before Gonzalez had his second monumental moment of this October.
The Yankees are in trouble. They were outhit 15-5 and will be facing a team with all the momentum when they try force the best-of-five series back to Yankee Stadium for Game 5 on Monday.
Judge belted a mammoth two-run homer, and Cabrera and Harrison Bader also connected for New York.
Judge’s 449-foot shot in the third inning off Triston 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 got a seismic jolt from baseball’s most feared slugger.
However, the Yankees’ bullpen, which has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency, couldn’t protect the lead. It also hurt that Boone didn’t have Aroldis Chapman, who was left off the postseason roster when he skipped a workout.