Game 3 was a classic, and a microcosm of this series. A pair of two-run blasts by Yankees outfielders – one by right fielder Aaron Judge in the top of the third, and one by rookie left fielder Oswaldo Cabrera two innings later – seemed to take the excitement and energy out of what was at times a raucous sell-out crowd at Progressive Field Saturday night. But as Cabrera celebrated, the Guardians seemed to take exception, and it turns out he may have celebrated a little too hard, and a little too early.
The Guardians played to all of their strengths Saturday – staying in the game early, getting into a bullpen game, not making mistakes on defense, keeping pressure on the other team’s pitcher and defense and playing hard from the first pitch until the last. Despite those home runs, and another by center fielder Harrison Bader, the Guardians managed to keep the game close. They strung together three hits and scored a single run in each of the first two innings and again in the sixth. But despite out-hitting the Yankees and having runners on all evening, they went to the ninth down 5-3 and facing a lefty, against whom they have struggled all season.
When Yankees left-hander Wandy Peralta got Myles Straw to hit a soft fly ball to short left field, it looked like the Guardians were going to be down to their last out. But Cabrera seemed to get a slow jump before closing and trying to make a sliding catch. The ball deflected off his glove and rolled behind him, allowing Straw to advance to second. Guardians rookie sensation Steven Kwan followed that immediately with a single, which chased Peralta from the game. The Yankees brought in Clarke Schmidt who gave up back-to-back singles through the left side of the infield to Amed Rosario and José Ramírez before striking out Josh Naylor and bringing the Guardians down to their final out.
Fortunately, that brought to the plate Guardians rookie right fielder Oscar Gonzalez, who is turning into a legend on the playoff stage. Gonzalez had already hit the walk-off home run in the 15th inning against the Rays to end the wild-card series, and he had driven in the go-ahead run against the Yankees in extra innings of Game 2 of the ALDS. The only way to top that was, of course, to hit a two-run single up the middle to complete another improbable Guardians comeback, sending them to Game 4 with a chance to end the ALDS in Cleveland Sunday night.