MLB playoffs: Gerrit Cole delivers, helps Yankees bounce back vs. Guardians to set up winner-take-all showdown

Gerrit Cole did his part. The Yankees ace tossed seven innings and allowed only two runs to subdue the Cleveland Guardians, 4-2, in American League Division Series Game 4 and force a winner-take-all Game 5 on Monday night. The victor will advance to face the Houston Astros in the ALCS.

It's been a familiar cast of characters lifting the Yankees in this series. Both Yankees wins in this series have been credited to Cole. And Harrison Bader once again brought the offense for New York, belting a a two-run homer, his third of the series. The Yankees scored early on Cal Quantrill, then Cole took it from there. He allowed one run in both the third and fourth innings but otherwise steered clear of trouble and gave manager Aaron Boone the length a thin bullpen desperately needed.

Boone turned to Clay Holmes and got a scoreless frame after declining to use him during the Yankees' ninth-inning meltdown in Game 3. Wandy Peralta closed out the win.

Cleveland got at least one hit from their first six hitters, but only Josh Naylor's homer in the fourth was of the extra-base variety. It was a memorable trip around the bases if nothing else. Naylor barreled around first "rocking the baby" in a celebration.

Now tied at two, the series will quickly return to the Bronx on Monday for a decisive Game 5. Both teams are essentially expected to employ bullpen games. Yankees starter Nestor Cortes Jr. — whose Game 2 outing was delayed by rain — may be available for a multi-inning stint. If Cleveland uses a starter for multiple innings, it will likely be Aaron Civale.

The Game 2 postponement has pushed the Yankees' injury-riddled bullpen into a tough matchup against Cleveland and Terry Francona's fully armed relief corps. The risk played out on Saturday night, as Guardians playoff hero Oscar Gonzalez capped a ninth-inning rally against middling Yankees relievers with a walk-off single.

Monday's Game 5 is set for 7:07 p.m. ET on TBS.

[Full updated MLB playoff TV schedule]

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