CLEVELAND, Ohio — Time for a little therapy, Guardians fans.
It’s been an exciting and emotional post-season for SpongeBob SquarePants for your favorite baseball team.
I know, the Yankees beat Cleveland 4-2 at Progressive Field on Sunday night. What a Sunday night it could have been… the Guardians could have ended the streak here on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
But they didn’t.
Too Gerrit Cole (7 innings, 2 ERA), the Yankees’ leading pitcher. Too many hits for the Yankees. Too few good batters for the Guardians.
Now tell yourself this: The Guardians are still alive in the playoffs.
A TIME TO REMEMBER
Alright, close your eyes.
Think back to the spring, when few experts predicted the Guardians would have a winning record. Or July 4, when the team was 40-37 and many fans were happy to be around .500.
Or how about Sept. 5, when the Guardians tied for first with Minnesota in the AL Central Division.
It’s now mid-October and Cleveland is heading to New York for Game 5 of the Division Series.
Can you believe that?
That’s right, the Guardians are on their way to the Bronx for what amounts to a playoff game to keep their season alive.
Think about it for a moment.
The team with the youngest roster in MLB and one of the lowest payrolls must win one more game to qualify for the AL Championship Series – equivalent to baseball’s Final Four.
Are the odds against Cleveland? Sure.
Just as the odds were stacked against them to win 24 of 30 games to finish the regular season and top the Central Division. And the odds were stacked against them to win 4 of 6 post-season games, as they have done so far.
The odds against Cleveland? So what else is new?
GREAT GAME, WHO IS PRESENT?
For the most important game of the season, Cleveland will hand the ball to Aaron Civale. The right-hander has been battling injuries for most of 2022. His overall record is 5-6 with a 4.92 ERA.
But since the All-Star break, he’s 3-1 with a 3.35 ERA in eight starts. That’s the good news.
Civilian against the Yankees? Well, that’s a problem – at least this season. He started against them twice, being bombarded for 10 runs over nine innings – including three homers.
But it was also earlier in the season when he suffered a wrist injury.
If he can match fellow starter Cal Quantrill’s five-inning, three-run performance, he’ll give the Guardians a chance to cause an upset. That’s because the Yankees should pitch Jameson Taillon, a good pitcher with a 14-5 record and a 3.91 ERA. But it’s not Cole.
More good news. Cleveland has all of its key relays rested and ready – Emmanuel Clase, Trevor Stephan, James Karinchak and Sam Hentges. Manager Terry Francona can get to the bullpen early and often.
New York will look to Jameson who is 1-2 and has a 3.94 ERA against Cleveland. He allowed two runs coming out of the bullpen in Game 2, which the Guardians won 4-2.
The Guardians need another SpongeBob moment. That doesn’t have to come from rookie Oscar Gonzalez, who already has three playoff hits.
It could be Josh Naylor, who scored past Cole on Sunday. Or Jose Ramirez, who is a lifetime .411 hitter at Yankee Stadium.
Someone has to swing their magic wand from a bat at the right time to keep this impossible one-season dream heading for Houston. This is where the Astros await the winner of Monday night’s game.
A little more therapy, this one from master baseball psychologist Francona: “If you had told me in March that we were playing in Game 5 with a chance to go to the ALCS, I would have run to New York.”
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