gerrit cole yankees
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees needed Gerrit Cole in ace form and got their $324 million worth.

New York shook off Cleveland’s Game 3 demons and were in full control of the Guardians from the start. Cole led the way with seven innings and allowed just two runs while striking out eight. Clay Holmes worked a flawless eighth before Wandy Peralta, in his third straight game, closed it out.

The decisive Game 5 is slated for Monday night at Yankee Stadium. Both teams will have bullpen games. Can the Yankees rally for another comeback like they did all of the regular season?

Here’s what we learned:

Small ball sets the tone. Even as the Yankees won 4-2, the first inning was proof that this team doesn’t need to rely on home runs. Gleyber Torres led off with a single, stole a base, and then scored on Anthony Rizzo’s RBI single. This approach is important against a contact-hitting, young pitching-fueled team like the Guardians.

New York still only managed six hits on the game, but that matched Cleveland’s total thanks to Cole. Some home cooking should hopefully wake up the bats some more.

Bader’s got a big bat. Harrison Bader’s October thus far shows just how valuable he’ll be for the Yankees in 2023. On top of being an elite centerfielder, he’s batting .286 with three home runs and four RBI in the ALDS.

Bader may be known for his defense but his work with the bat this series shows he’s well aware of his new home ballpark’s friendly dimensions. It doesn’t matter that two of the three homers have come on the road. Bader knows he must adjust his swing and thrives under the pressure of the postseason.

He practically was, dare we say it, born to be a New York Yankee.

Game 5 is anybody’s game. Monday’s Game 5 being a bullpen duel means anything can happen and chaos will reign. Cleveland will start No. 4 starter Aaron Civale as a likely opener, while the Yankees have announced Jameson Taillon will take the ball for them. Taillon had one ineffective relief appearance in Game 2, surrendering two runs in the tenth inning and now makes his first playoff start.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, Cleveland has the bullpen advantage. Neither Emmanuel Clase nor James Karinchak have pitched since Game 2 and neither has Trevor Stephan. Perhaps Shane Bieber is available for an inning or two.

Yet, Yankee Stadium tends to attract drama and a series-deciding Game 5 sets the stage perfectly. One team advances to face the dangerous Houston Astros in the ALCS. And if the Yankees can summon one more rally, they’ll be one step closer to exorcising some playoff ghosts.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.