By Hal McCoy
The one thing the Cleveland Guardians fear from the New York Yankees is the home run, especially from Aaron Judge.
Judge did not hit a home run Tuesday night in Yankee Stadium, he struck out three times. But Harrison Bader and Anthony Rizzo did hit homers.
And the Yankees used them to slap a 4-1 defeat on the Guardians in Game One of the American League Division Series.
Although the Guardians won two games from the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Wild Card Series, they did it by 2-1 and 1-0 in 15 innings.
With their one run Tuesday, that adds up to four runs in 33 innings of post-season play.
The Guardians are not a homer-happy team. Only the Kansas City Royals hit fewer homers in the majors during the regular season.
But all four runs in their first three post-season games have come via home runs, including their run Tuesday.
That came off the bat of Steve Kwan against Yankees starter Gerrit Cole in the third inning to give Cleveland a 1-0 lead.
The lead survived only until the Yankees came to bat in the bottom of the third against Cleveland starter Cal Quintrill. Bader, the Yankees number nine hitter, reached the left field seats with a one-out homer to tie it, 1-1.
The Yankees took the lead in the fifth despite a baserunning gaffe by Josh Donaldson. He led the inning with a drive to the top of the right field wall.
He thought it was a home run and went into his trot, even slapping congratulatory hands with the first base coach as he rounded first, still trotting.
But the ball hit the top of the ball and bounced back to right fielder Oscar Gonzalez. He picked it up and fired to second and Donaldson, still nonchalantly trotting, was tagged out.
Unfortunately for the Guardians, Isiah Kiner-Falfela followed with a line drive to right. The ball skipped through Gonzalez. Falfela ended up on third with a singe and a two-base error. He scored on Jose Trevino’s sacrifice fly to deep center and the Yankees led, 2-1.
Quantrill walked Judge to open the sixth. Judge stole second, all 6-foot-7 of him, and continued to third on a throwing error by catcher Austin Hedges.
The steal and the error were not necessary. The next batter, Rizzo, crushed a two-run home run into the right field seats.
That made it 4-1 and that’s where it stayed.
Cole pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up one run, four hits, walked one and struck out six. Quantrill pitched five innings and gave up four runs (three earned), four hits, walked three and struck out five.
After Kwan homered with one out in the third, the Guardians loaded the bases with still one out. But Gonzalez grounded to short and Amed Rosario was forced at home and Andres Gimenez struck out.
The Guardians put two on with one out in the seventh on singles by Myles Straw and Kwan. That ended Cole’s evening on the mound. Jonathan Loaisiga arrived to coax and inning-ending double play from Rosario.
Jose Ramirez, who had two of Cleveland’s six hits, singled to open the eighth. Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Wandy Peralta replaced Loaisiga and induced another double play, this one by Josh Naylor.
New York closer Clay Holmes pitched the ninth and he hit pinch-hitter Owen Miller with one out. Then he retired pinch-hitter Will Benson and Straw to end it and give the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
After a day off, the series continues in Yankee Stadium Thursday.