Yankees vs. Guardians Score: Cleveland exits 6-5 in wild ALDS Game 3

The Cleveland Guardians defeated the New York Yankees 6-5 in Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Saturday. The Guardians rallied from a 5-3 deficit in the ninth, scoring three runs to take a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-five series. With another win, the Guardians would advance to play the Houston Astros for the AL pennant. (The Astros won their ALDS against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night.)

The Yankees fell behind early, and the Guardians took 2-0 leads in the first and second innings. New York’s offense rallied with a pair of two-run home runs that gave them a 4-2 lead, including Aaron Judge’s first of the game:

Opener Luis Severino followed the same path as his team: first hard, then soft sailing. He left with two runners on in the sixth. One of the two would score, cutting the Yankees’ lead to 4-3, but another home run (Harrison Bader) and New York’s bullpen seemed primed to hold on to a 5-3 lead.

The Guardians rallied in the ninth, however, with four straight one-out hits to cut the Yankees’ lead to one. Oscar Gonzalez then delivered a two-out single that plated a pair of runs and sealed the upset victory for the Guardians.

Here are six things to know about the Guardians Game 3 win.

1. Gonzalez plays the hero again

Last Saturday, Oscar Gonzalez put his name on the national stage with the Guardians’ marathon game against the Tampa Bay Rays. The win propelled the Guardians into the series. Gonzalez had to settle for a one-run single against the Yankees this Saturday, but it helped the Guardians pull off an improbable win.

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According to FanGraphs, when Luke Maile starts the bottom of the ninth, the Guardians have a less than five percent win expectation. Things can change quickly in baseball, and that was proven on Saturday. Myles Straw, Steven Kwan, Amed Rosario, and José Ramírez all singled, resulting in a run scored and the bases loaded. A Josh Naylor strikeout later, and the Guardians were down for their final out.

That’s when Gonzalez did this:

Yankees manager Aaron Boone tried to extend Vandy Peralta for the second full inning, and he called on Clark Schmidt — and not Clay Holmes — in an attempt to lock things up. Maybe the Guardians would have rallied behind an onslaught of well-placed singles anyway, but losing this series means the Yankees will have even more reason to look back on Game 3 with regret.

Of course, none of this matters to the Guardians or Gonzalez. They have another reason to celebrate an unlikely hero.

2. Severino bounces back from rough start

Severino finished his night with less than a quality start: 5 2/3 innings, eight hits, three runs and no walks with six strikeouts on 106 pitches. That qualifies as a win in a few respects, as it marked a major turnaround from how his night had started.

On another note, Severino was so shaky early on that manager Aaron Boone warmed up right-hander Domingo German in the bullpen during the second inning.

Severino allowed three hits in the first inning and three more in the second. Yet in both instances, he stranded a pair of baserunners that, had they scored, could have broken the game open early and led to an entirely different outcome. Boone allowed Severino to start the third inning, and Severino rewarded his manager’s faith.

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Indeed, Severino righted the ship from there, retiring 13 consecutive hitters until Andres Gimenez reached on an infield single in the sixth inning.

Severino’s counterpart, Tristan McKenzie, started the night in better shape than the Yankee did. However, by the end of the evening, McKenzie had thrown five innings and surrendered four runs on four hits and one walk.

2. Judge breaks the slump with a home run

As noted in the introduction, Judge delivered the first win of the ALDS, and the entire postseason as the Yankees earned a first-round bye. It was a 449-foot blast that had an exit velocity of 113.7 mph, according to Statcast.

Judge entered Saturday mired in a season-worst slump: 0 for 8 with seven strikeouts and one walk in the first two games.

“I don’t want to be rude, but if we did (if there was a plan to shut Judge down), I’m not sure I’d want to share that. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said following Game 2. “Sometimes I think — hitters can’t hit a button. No matter how good guys are, sometimes guys take 0-fours. I don’t think anybody’s going to stand here and beat our chests until you finish a streak. He’s very dangerous. We know that. .”

Judge’s struggles were surprising, as he posted one of the greatest offensive seasons in history as he broke the AL and Yankees single-season home-run records (with 62 long balls) and competed for the AL Triple Crown.

3. Rookie left fielders have big games

It was a good night and a good game for the rookie left fielders.

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The Yankees’ Oswaldo Cabrera recorded two hits: a double in the third inning, pacing Judge’s two-run shot, and then a two-run home run in the fifth. His home run exit velocity was 104.8 mph and traveled 409 feet:

Cabrera appeared in just 44 regular season games, making him one of the least experienced players in the series.

On the other side of the field, Guardians’ Steven Kwan also recorded three hits. He led off the bottom of the first with a double (and later scored), plated a run in the second with a single, and again in the ninth. He also scored the game winning run. Quan was, of course, one of the most accomplished rookies in the majors during the regular season, appearing in 147 games and averaging 5.5 hits, according to Baseball Reference calculations.

4. What is a 2-1 lead?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but a 2-1 lead in a best-of-five series is a big deal. Research by our own Dan Perry has revealed that teams that take a 2-1 lead in LDS win 75 percent of those series. That looks good for the Defenders’ chances of advancing to the ALCS. Even so, they won’t be counted until the Yankees are officially eliminated.

5. What’s next

The Yankees and Guardians will meet again on Sunday in Cleveland for Game 4. The Guardians have a chance to close out the series, while the Yankees will try to stave off elimination and force a return trip to New York for a decisive Game 5.

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