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Stanton, Judge propel Yankees to series against Astros

NEW YORK — Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge anesthetized Cleveland early with a pair of home runs, and the New York Yankees beat the Guardians 5-1 Tuesday in Game 5 of the American League Division Series to meet again with Houston for the title of the circuit.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone won his bid by turning to Nestor Cortes as a starter on three days’ rest in place of Jameson Taillon, a hasty change of plans when Monday’s rainy night caused a postponement.

“The Nestor thing is the stuff of legend,” Boone said. “He knew that he was in good physical condition. If we had to play last night, he was surely going to have an important role for us.”

By contrast, Cleveland manager Terry Francona did not deviate from the original script by keeping Aaron Civale as the starter instead of ace Shane Bieber.

Civale came out of control and the Guardians never recovered after Stanton hit a three-run homer on just 21 pitches. Civale went to the showers immediately after getting just one out.

Stanton increased by adding a solo home run in the second.

Cortés dominated by throwing three-hit ball in five innings, crediting himself with the victory.

“I had nothing to lose. I am someone who has had to go through bad times,” said the Cuban right-hander. “To me, this is just the icing on the cake.”

Benefiting from an extra day of rest, Jonathan Loáisiga, Clay Holmes and Wandy Peralta completed the rest of a five-hit job.

The more than 48,000 fans at Yankee Stadium cheered when Myles Straw grounded out to shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who gave up second baseman Gleyber Torres to spell the end.

Torres imitated rocking a baby. It was a mockery of Josh Naylor, the Guardians slugger who made the gesture as he walked the bases after homering off Gerrit Cole in Game 4.

“It was disrespectful,” the Venezuelan infielder said of Naylor. “Not just to Cole, but to the entire team. We’re getting even. Now they can watch the next series on TV.”

New York overturned a 2-1 deficit in the best-of-five series. After the collapse of their bullpen on Saturday night in Cleveland, the Yankees took the next two games and will now face Houston in a showdown of the titans.

“We have plans. Now it’s a tremendous series tomorrow,” Judge said.

Taillon will start Wednesday night in Game 1 of the championship series in Houston, which will feature Justin Verlander on the mound. The fight for the American title will have the two best clubs in the regular season, the Astros with their 106 wins against the Yankees with 99. Quite a contrast with the National clash between San Diego and Philadelphia, both wild cards.

“The challenge is that we’re going up against a great team. As far as it’s immediate, it’s okay,” Boone said. “That’s baseball. We do it all the time. We’re going to come in with a healthy dose of confidence. We know they’re going to be rested and ready. We’re up for the challenge.”

The Astros outscored the Yankees in a championship series that went seven games in 2017, and also six games in 2019. Houston went on to win its first World Series championship in 2017, though the scandal of his wearing a camera to communicate the opposing team’s pitches to their batters.

Seeking its 28th championship and first since 2009. New York could lose left fielder Aaron Hicks in the series against Houston after he suffered a left knee injury colliding with rookie shortstop Oswaldo Cabrera in the third inning.

It was another adverse outcome for Cleveland in the postseason.

The Guardians, the youngest team in Major League Baseball, were trying to end baseball’s longest championship drought in their first year under a new name. Absolute champions have not been consecrated since 1948.

With 17 players making their major league debuts this season, the Guardians would have a bright future ahead of them, as well as having their star José Ramírez tied up until 2028.

“I don’t have the slightest idea what next year is going to bring us,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “Even though we couldn’t reach the final goal, it’s been a great year. A lot of things happened that people didn’t expect. The future depends on us. We’ll have to do better.”

Cleveland went 1-8 in do-or-die games in the playoffs, losing the last eight after winning the first in the 1997 division series against the Yankees. The streak began with an 11-inning loss in Game 7 of that year’s World Series against the Marlins in Florida.

Being down so early rattled the Guardians, who didn’t ask for the review in the fourth inning when Andres Gimenez ran past Anthony Rizzo to touch first base.

“We ran out of time,” Francona explained when explaining why.

Ramirez produced Cleveland’s lone run with a third-inning sacrifice fly off Steven Kwan’s single down the left-field line, the play that caused Hicks’ injury.

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