NEW YORK — The New York Yankees and Cleveland Guardians will have to wait another day to decide their ALDS matchup. The winner-take-all Game 5 was postponed Monday-evening due to rain. The match will be made up at 4:07 p.m. ET on Tuesday. The winner will face the Houston Astros in the ALCS, which begins Wednesday. The loser goes home.
“If you had told me in March, I don’t know, we just signed up to play Game 5 in New York to go to the ALCS, I would have jogged to New York,” said Guardians manager Terry Francona after. Game 4.
Game 5 is the ALDS’ second reprieve. Game 2 was also postponed, meaning Games 2-4 were played on three consecutive days. Game 5 would have made it four games in four days. The postponement gives both bullpens — and both teams in general — a little extra rest before winning a game or going home.
With all that in mind, let’s do a post-rainout inventory of each team’s pitching situation heading into Tuesday’s Game 5.
Starting Pitchers: Nestor Cortes vs. TBA
Right-handers Jameson Taillon and Aaron Civale were originally scheduled to start Game 5 Monday night, but the rain has allowed the Yankees and Guardians to use their Game 2 starters – Nestor Cortes and Shane Bieber – in three days. ‘rest Tuesday. Cleveland will announce its Game 5 starter on Tuesday. The Yankees have confirmed Cortes will start.
Monday afternoon Guardians manager Terry Francona indicated that Bieber would not throw again unless they reach the ALCS, although it should be tempting to use him during short halftime in Game 5. Bieber has thrown well in his two postseason starts and is simply Cleveland’s best pitcher. Even at short rest, he gives the team the best chance of winning Game 5 and continuing to play.
In general, short rest starters tend to get tired sooner, so instead of being good at about 100 pitches, they hit the wall on 75-80 pitches. Even then, getting 75 pitches from Cortes (or Bieber) is better than the alternative. Taillon and Civale were expected to be kept on short lines, so a shorter-than-usual line starter on Cortes (or Bieber) wouldn’t change the plan much.
In Game 2, Cortes held the Guardians to two runs in five innings, and he dominated them in two regular season starts (three runs in 12 1/3 innings). That said, he will rest briefly and the Guardians will see him for the second time in less than a week. The fatigue and familiarity could swing the pendulum in favor of the batters.
“I trust who he is and his makeup, and I know he’s going to go out there and fight really well,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Cortes ahead of his Game 2 start. “Like that’s what he does really well is he likes to play the game. He’s super competitive and I know he won’t be scared. He’ll take it and drop the chips a little bit where they can.”
Bieber has never started his career with short rests and the Guardians have treated him carefully after last season’s shoulder injury – he made 17 of his 31 starts with extra rests during the regular season. He held the Yankees to two runs in 5 2/3 innings in Game 2 and was outstanding after giving up a two-run homerun to Giancarlo Stanton in the first inning.
Bullpen Status: A Much-Needed Break for New York
Cleveland’s bullpen was in much better shape heading into Game 5 than New York’s. The Guardians didn’t use setup man Trevor Stephan or James Karinchak, or closer Emmanuel Clase, in Games 3 and 4, so all three go into Game 5 with three days of rest. That causes them to go several innings apiece. Francona’s ideal pitching plan is probably starter (Civale or Bieber with short rest) to Stephan to Karinchak to Clase, without anyone else getting involved.
The Yankees, on the other hand, have been working hard on their key relievers in recent days, and the delay gives their top men a much-needed breather. They have used five different relievers throughout the series (excluding Taillon in Game 2). Miguel Castro, Domingo Germán and Lucas Luetge are on the ALDS roster but haven’t pitched yet. Look at the number of pitches from New York’s top relievers that led to the originally scheduled Game 5 on Monday:
In Games 2-4, Peralta became the first Yankees reliever to pitch for three consecutive days this season, and while he claimed he would be available in Game 5, throwing four consecutive days in baseball now rarely happens. Peralta is resting and will once again face off against Josh Naylor and Andrés Giménez, Cleveland’s left-wing power threats. He’s run into them in every game of this series and kept them hit-less.
Holmes controversially did not pitch in a safe situation in Game 3 and it could cost the Yankees the game. Afterward, Boone said he would only use Holmes in an emergency as he is recovering from a recent shoulder injury, and they didn’t want to push him for days at a time. That said, Boone said Holmes would be available in Game 5 despite pitching in Game 4. Now the rain gives him a day to rest.
“Yeah, yeah,” Boone said on Sunday of using Holmes in Games 4 and 5 on back-to-back days. “Tomorrow, yes, in a win-or-go house, yes.”
It should be noted that Gerrit Cole, who threw 110 pitches in seven innings in Game 4 on Sunday, told Boone that he was available on Monday. Boone said he was hesitant to use it the day after a start, but now that Cole has a rest day it becomes more realistic to use him out of the bullpen for an inning. When it comes down to it, don’t be surprised to see Cole on the hill on Tuesday.
The Yankees were about to go into Game 5 Monday with some bullpen concerns given the recent workload of their upper auxiliary arms. Now those boys get a night’s rest. They are not nearly as equipped as Stephen, Karinchak and Clase will be for Cleveland, but they are equipped. On paper, the Guardians still have the bullpen advantage given the workload, but that advantage won’t be nearly as great on Tuesday as it would have been on Monday.