At one point Friday afternoon, a Yankees-Astros ALCS matchup seemed almost inevitable.
Then, however, the Yankees stopped hitting — without scoring after a pair of first-inning runs — and they let Cleveland back into the ALDS.
They couldn’t get a hit with runners in scoring position and they made a key error in the 10th inning in a 4-2 10-inning loss to the Guardians in the Bronx on Friday.
The teams travel to Cleveland for Game 3 on Saturday night with the series tied 1-1 after the Yankees lost their six-game playoff winning streak to the Guardians.
“We never thought it was going to be easy,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We’re going to get on that plane and try to get one [Saturday].”
Maybe the Yankees didn’t expect it to be easy, but plenty of others did.
Jameson Taillon’s first career appearance out of the bullpen was a nightmare, as he failed to retire any of the three batters he faced in the 10th.
Jose Ramirez opened the inning by hitting a pop fly to left field with the Yankees in a shift. The ball fell between left fielder Oswaldo Cabrera, who failed to make a sliding catch, and third baseman Josh Donaldson. When Donaldson picked up the ball and threw it to second base for an error, Ramirez ended up at third base.
“I thought I had a chance in second, [but] pulled the pitch a little bit trying to make a play and Jose Ramirez does what he does,” Donaldson said.
With the infield, Oscar Gonzalez threw an RBI single to the shallow right to drive Ramirez with the go-ahead.
Josh Naylor followed with a hard double down the center that scored Gonzalez.
And the Yankees lineup, which was stalled after the first inning, couldn’t rally in the bottom of the 10th, with Cabrera out and Isiah Kiner-Falefa on the ground after Donaldson walked.
When asked how he expected the Yankees to respond, Aaron Judge, who hit four times and was booed, said, “Like we’ve done all year. We faced adversity throughout the season to win the division. It’s not new to us. We have the guys to finish the job.
His manager agreed.
“Nothing changes for us,” Boone said. “We didn’t expect all of this, at this time of year, to be easy, and nothing has been easy for us this year, especially in the second half of the season.”
Playing a rare postseason game — necessitated by rain Thursday night — the Yankees went ahead early when Stanton hit a two-run homer against Shane Bieber late in the first. But they were closed for the rest of the afternoon.
Nestor Cortes allowed runs in the fourth and fifth innings as the Guardians tied the game, before the Yankees bullpen took over and delivered four shutout innings – until Taillon faltered at the 10th.
With Gleyber Torres after a single and two outs, Stanton gave the Yankees the lead late in the first. He got help from plate umpire Jeremie Rehak, who missed a 3-1 pitch that should have been ball four, but was instead called a strike.
Stanton sent Bieber’s next pitch onto the short porch on the right to put the Yankees up, 2-0.
The Yankees squandered a chance to extend their lead in the third inning, stalling a pair of runners in scoring position.
With runners at second and third, Stanton retired and Donaldson fielded left, where Steven Kwan made a minimal catch to end the inning and make it a two-run game. The Yankees finished 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
Cortes allowed a two-out RBI single to former Met Andres Gimenez in the fourth inning and a solo homer to another ex-Met, Amed Rosario, with one out in the fifth, as Cleveland tied the game at 2- 2.
The Yankees got two with two outs in the bottom of the sixth to knock Bieber out of the game.
Matt Carpenter, out since August with a broken left foot, pinch hit for Jose Trevino but was knocked out against reliever Trevor Stephan, a former Yankees farmhand. Stephan smelled each of the four batters he faced.
Stanton scored one out in the eighth against James Karinchak and pinch runner Tim Locastro came in and swept the second with Donaldson at the plate. Karinchak accompanied Donaldson to bring Cabrera, who huffed.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa walked to charge the bases for Kyle Higashioka, who had entered behind the plate after Carpenter hit for Trevino.
Against Cleveland, closer to Emmanuel Clase, Higashioka placed third.
“We’re going to go out there and fight back,” Cortes said.