NEW YORK – In the early going Tuesday afternoon, the Yankees pointed themselves toward Houston and never looked back.
Giancarlo Stanton’s first-inning three-run homer was followed by a second inning shot by Aaron Judge, giving Nestor Cortes – starting on short rest – plenty of positive momentum.
And when Wandy Peralta sealed a 5-1 victory over the Cleveland Guardians, the celebration was on at Yankee Stadium.
Climbing their way back from a 2-1 deficit in games, the Yankees – behind Gerrit Cole – won Sunday’s potential elimination Game 4 at Cleveland and handily won Game 5 in the Bronx.
Now, it’s on to Minute Maid Park for the best-of-seven AL Championship Series, beginning Wednesday night.
Follow every game: Live MLB Scores
This is the third time since 2017 that the Astros and Yankees have met in the ALCS, with Houston winning both previous series.
Justin time, the power was back on in the Bronx. Including postseason, the Yankees are 28-2 when both Stanton and Judge hit home runs in the same game.
NLCS: Linked by free-agent frenzy of 2019, Harper and Machado meet in playoffs
OCTOBER: MLB playoff schedule. Everything you should know
The Yankees were 12-1 this year when both sluggers connected and they’re 4-0 in postseason games since 2018.
Stanton has now homered in 10 of his last 15 postseason games and Judge now holds the MLB record with four career home runs in winner-take-all postseason games.
Legend of Nestor
On just three days’ rest, Cortes added to the “Legend of Nasty Nestor’’ by giving the Yankees exactly what they needed.
With an economy of pitches (61), the gutsy lefty lasted five innings and limited Cleveland to one run.
“We don’t need huge length out of him,’’ Yankees manager Aaron Boone said before the game. “Just feel like we’re in a good spot behind him.’’
That meant a full complement of bullpen arms, plus, following Monday’s rainout.
Even Sunday night’s Game 4 starter, Gerrit Cole, was available if needed in the late innings or to potentially close it out.
Cole had texted Boone late Monday morning, telling him he’d be available (he threw 110 pitches Sunday) if necessary. Boone was more inclined to take him up on that offer Tuesday.
But it never got to that point.
Cortes’ efficiency started a more normal bullpen chain, with Jonathan Loaisiga immediately following with two scoreless innings.
According to Boone, Cortes was ready to pitch a significant stretch of a Monday Game 5 on two days’ rest, in relief of Jameson Taillon, the original Game 5 starter.
Now, Taillon will start Wednesday’s ALCS opener at Houston.
The Bronx cheers
Despite Monday night’s rainout, an energetic sellout crowd was ready to go for the 4 p.m. start, and they were locked in from the start.
Of course, Cortes’ scoreless first inning and Stanton’s three-run shot was an instant warmup on a brisk, 57-degree afternoon.
But along with the usual “M-V-P” chants for Judge, the crowd was ready for Cleveland designated hitter Josh Naylor after his exuberant “rock-the-baby” home run trot Sunday off Cole – while the Guardians were still trailing.
“Who’s your daddy!” chanted 48,178 fans as Naylor went 0-for-4, including a ninth inning leadoff groundout, with the crowd standing and serenading him.
One inventive fan held up a “Naylor Outs Counter” sign, and the fans gave Myles Straw the usual venomous treatment.
Straw famously dubbed the Stadium faithful as the world’s worst fan base after the Cleveland outfielders were subjected to postgame debris hurled their way following a Yankees walk-off win.
The wide-open spaces of the Southwest provide infinite possibilities for a fall adventure. Find your next road trip idea in this month’s magazine.
In that April 23 game, Straw scaled the outfield wall to yell back at fans, in defense of teammate Steven Kwan, who was the target of verbal abuse.
For health reasons, Guardians manager Terry Francona shut down the idea of Shane Bieber starting Game 5 on three days of rest.
The 2020 AL Cy Young award winner started 16 games in 2021 due to shoulder issues but bounced back to make 31 starts (200 innings) this season.
Understandably, Cleveland wouldn’t risk using Bieber on short rest.
But starter Aaron Civale gave the Guardians nothing, and his extremely short leash was warranted.
Civale walked leadoff batter Gleyber Torres on four pitches before getting away with an extremely hittable 3-2 curveball that Judge (perhaps shocked at the pitch selection) swung through.
Next, Civale plunked Anthony Rizzo with a 2-2 breaking ball (a Rizzo specialty) before Stanton slashed an elevated, non-competitive 3-2 breaking pitch over the right field wall.
After Civale yielded an infield hit to Josh Donaldson, Francona was already into his bullpen.
Hailing from outside Hartford, Conn., Civale hadn’t fooled the Yanks much this year, yielding 10 runs on 12 hits in his two regular season starts, both losses.