THE BRONX, N.Y. — The Guardians' magic carpet ride has come to an end.
Some will say they were just out of gas, others will point to some questionable decisions. Still others will claim the moment was "just to big for them."
Regardless, Cleveland has been eliminated from the postseason following a 5-1 loss to the New York Yankees Tuesday in the decisive Game 5 of the American League Division Series. The Yanks will now head to Houston tomorrow to face the Astros for the AL pennant, while the Guards will head home with their World Series championship drought officially extending to 75 years.
In truth, the Guardians were never expected to be here. Even after they shocked prognosticators by winning the AL Central title, most felt they would be no match for the powerful Bronx Bombers. But this team of young upstarts defied the odds once again, using timely hitting and clutch hitting to take a two games to one lead on the Yankees with a chance to advance to the ALCS.
Cleveland lost Game 4 Sunday at Progressive Field, setting up a winner-take-all Game 5 Monday in New York. Unfortunately, rain pushed the matchup back to Tuesday, allowing the Yanks to start electric lefty Nestor Cortes on three days rest. Rather than go with his ace Shane Bieber under similar circumstances, Guards manager Terry Francona chose to stick with Aaron Civale, who finished the regular season strong but had not pitched in almost two weeks.
That decision proved to be disastrous. After walking Gleyber Torres to start the game, Civale struck out Aaron Judge before hitting Anthony Rizzo on the arm. That set the stage for slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who promptly homered to the opposite field in right to put the Yankees ahead 3-0 and put the Guardians behind the 8 ball from the get-go.
Following another hit by Josh Donaldson, Civale was pulled after just 1/3 of an inning. Sam Hentges relieved him, but ended up getting burned himself in the second when Judge hit his hanging breaking ball over the fence to make it 4-0. New York would out-homer Cleveland 9-3 in the series.
The Guards got on the board in the third with a José Ramírez sacrifice fly, but other than that, the offense wasn't much of a threat. Cortes did his job in five innings of work, allowing just three hits and that single run. The Yanks would extend the lead back to four with a Rizzo RBI single in the fifth, and the bullpen combination of Jonathan Loáisiga, Clay Holmes, and Wandy Peralta finished things off from there.
The Guardians now head into the offseason with a lot to be proud of. After all, 92 wins and a wild-card series victory are nothing to scoff at, and most of their key players are locked up for the long term. Still, there is no doubt a tinge of disappointment, especially after failing to vanquish the Yankees despite having two cracks at it.
Since 1999, Cleveland is now a dismal 4-21 in postseason elimination games, including 0-9 when they themselves are the ones in danger of being sent home. Most importantly, they still have not won a World Series since 1948, the longest current dry spell in baseball.
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