As Clay Holmes warmed up, Gerrit Cole emptied the tank and blew a 98 mph fastball past pinch hitter Will Brennan for the final out of the seventh inning.
Cole’s 110th and final pitch of a clutch postseason start also prompted the right-hander to shout “Let’s Go” and pump his fist as he walked off the mound.
Cole delivered seven stellar innings and the visiting New York Yankees evened the American League Division Series at two games apiece with a 4-2 victory over the host Cleveland Guardians on Sunday night.
“Just kept making pitches all night long,” New York manager Aaron Boone said. “And I thought (he) was just really in command of the moment, and it was obviously a huge start for us and for him. And to get us that deep in the game set us up real nice.”
Game 5 is Monday night in New York, with Jameson Taillon expected to start for the Yankees against the Guardians’ Aaron Civale in what likely will be a bullpen game for both teams. The winner heads to Houston to open the AL Championship Series on Wednesday.
Harrison Bader hit his third homer of the series and his second off Cal Quantrill (0-2) as the Yankees raced out to a 3-0 lead in the second.
Anthony Rizzo hit an RBI single in the first and Giancarlo Stanton lifted a sacrifice fly in the sixth for the Yankees, who have scored 15 runs in the series. The Yankees evened the series after moving Oswaldo Cabrera to shortstop in place of Isiah Kiner-Falefa and starting Aaron Hicks in left field.
Jose Ramirez hit an RBI single for Cleveland’s first run and Josh Naylor homered for the Guardians, whose two wins in the series have come in their last at-bats on go-ahead hits by rookie Oscar Gonzalez.
Cole allowed two runs on six hits to improve to 10-5 in 16 career postseason starts, and he got his second win in six starts in an elimination playoff game. The $324 million ace struck out eight and walked one, and was and seemed to get stronger as the game continued, hitting 97 mph.
“Our guys had that look in their eyes tonight, and it starts with Gerrit,” Rizzo said.
In the seventh, Cole had a runner at second when Andres Gimenez singled and advanced when Bader bobbled the ball in center field.
Cole then struck out Gabriel Arias for the second out. After a second mound visit to give Holmes more time, Cole threw three straight fastballs past Brennan, including the final one when the rookie attempted to call time from plate umpire Will Little.
“I think he was probably out of gas the last two, three hitters,” Boone said. “Just a huge, big-time performance in this environment and to get us back home.”
“I do that (empty the tank) every time I pitch,” Cole said. “Whether he lets me or not, that’s another deal.”
After not being used in the ninth inning Saturday when Wandy Peralta and Clarke Schmidt combined to allow three runs in a 6-5 Game 3 loss, Holmes issued a one-out walk to Steven Kwan but fanned Ramirez on a slider to end the eighth. Peralta needed just seven pitches in a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.
“I thought he threw the ball really well and was very much under control too,” Boone said of Holmes, who has dealt with a sore shoulder recently.
Cleveland was held to six hits and went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position, one day after ripping 15 hits and going 9-for-17 with runners in scoring position in Saturday’s 6-5 win.
“If you would have told me back in March we just signed up to play Game 5 in New York, to go to the ALCS, I would have jogged to New York,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.
The Yankees’ Gleyber Torres led off the game with a single, stole second when Aaron Judge struck out and just beat the relay throw on Rizzo’s single to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
After Josh Donaldson opened the second with a single, Bader hit a first-pitch cutter into the left field seats.
Ramirez’s bloop single to left on an 0-2 pitch against the shift got Cleveland within one run in the third, but the third baseman overran first base and was easily thrown out to end the inning.
Naylor opened the fourth by hitting a 2-2 fastball to right-center. Naylor rounded the bases swinging his arms back and forth in excitement in a reaction that hardly bothered Cole.
“Whatever,” Cole said. “It’s cute.”
Cole then retired the final 10 hitters before the pivotal sequence in the seventh.
Quantrill allowed three runs on four hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked one.
“He competed like crazy,” Francona said.