NEW YORK — Which team is best suited for suspension of decisive Game 5 of the American League Division Series on Monday and rescheduling it for Tuesday at 4 pm ET?
Jameson Taillon, who lost Game 2 in extra innings last Friday in his first career relief appearance, was scheduled to start Monday for New York. But now Goes Nestor Cortes Jr. The Cuban left-hander opened that game on Friday, allowing six hits and two runs in 5.0 innings of work.
Cortes will be pitching on three days’ rest. The only time he has done that as a major leaguer was in 2019, in his second stint with the Yankees. He was penalized for six hits and four runs (two earned) in just 2 1/3 innings on that occasion, but that was before he earned his nickname “Nasty Nestor.”
An even more notable advantage for the Bronx Bombers could be a fresher bullpen. Relievers Clay Holmes and Wandy Peralta pitched Sunday in Game 4, a New York win over the Guardians to even the series. Clearly, Holmes, Peralta and Nicaraguan Jonathan Loaisiga have been manager Aaron Boone’s most trusted relievers, combining for 10 1/3 innings of just two runs in this series.
In particular, Peralta threw in each of the last three games of the series, between Friday and Sunday, throwing a total of 49 pitches. He will now have at least one day off and should be available on Tuesday, different from Monday when it was difficult to see him pitch.
And in an extreme case—not very likely, but not impossible either—Boone could even use Gerrit Cole, his ace who has been brilliant in these playoffs (13.1 innings, three runs allowed, 16 strikeouts and two wins), to get a crucial out or two if necessary after the right-hander’s brilliant start on Sunday.
“He’s already told me he’s available,” Boone revealed of a conversation with Cole on Monday. And on Tuesday, even more so.
When it comes to the Guardians, they had already entered Monday with their formidable trio of relievers—Trevor Stephan, James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase—well rested, so this extra day puts New York’s bullpen a little more even with the from Cleveland.
If the Guardians decide to go with Shane Bieber on three days’ rest, instead of Aaron Civale—who hasn’t pitched since Oct. 5 and hasn’t pitched a postseason pitch in his life—they could find themselves in a good position to try to navigate nine innings with Bieber, Stephan, Karinchak and Class. And of course, Civale and other relievers could help, too.
Bieber has never started a game on less than four days’ rest, but Game 5 could be seen as a kind of “bullpen game,” with the Guardians ace as the “starter.”
After all, if there is an advantage—and in baseball, the variables make it difficult to definitively declare one—it belongs to the Yankees, who now arrive with a more rested reliever, to be able to move the chips with the same ease as the Guardians.
The winner of Tuesday’s Game 5 will go straight to Houston, to start the American League Championship Series against the Astros on Wednesday.