Gerrit Cole weathers the storm early as Yankees take Game 1 over Guardians

Pete Caldera

NEW YORK – Just when it looked as if Tuesday night’s third inning might go sideways on Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ ace found a way to reset and carry on.

Cole pitched into the seventh inning and the Yankees’ bullpen – which has been a questionable lot heading into postseason – wrapped up a 4-1 victory against the Cleveland Guardians at Yankee Stadium.  

After a five-day layoff, the Yanks used a solo homer by Harrison Bader, a sacrifice fly by Jose Trevino and a two-run shot by Anthony Rizzo to claim Game 1 of the best-of-five AL Division Series.

“I want to validate myself,” Bader said. “I want to play hard and I want to show my teammates and I want to show –- my parents are in the stands – I want to show them all why I earned that uniform.”

And now, both clubs might be in for another long wait between games.

Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole walks off the mound in the sixth inning.

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After Wednesday’s oddly scheduled off day, Thursday’s Game 2 is threatened by a rainy forecast in New York.

The potential looms for a Game 2 to be forced to Friday afternoon at the Stadium, wiping out the travel day, with Games 3 and 4 (if necessary) still on for Saturday and Sunday at Cleveland.

If a deciding Game 5 is needed, it will be Monday at Yankee Stadium.

Cole had his curveball and slider working especially well as put away swing-and-miss pitches Tuesday, ending with eight strikeouts.

In the first two innings, Cole stranded a Cleveland runner at second with one out, each time with strikeouts.

But things nearly went off the rails in the third, after rookie Steven Kwan’s one-out homer.

Amed Rosario was hit by a pitch, Jose Ramirez doubled, and Josh Naylor loaded the bases on a fielder’s choice, as the Yanks failed to catch Rosario off third base.

But Cole buckled down in front of an agitated sellout crowd, getting a force play at the plate before striking out Andres Gimenez on a slider.

The Yanks went ahead 2-1 in the fifth, after Josh Donaldson’s bid for a leadoff homer clanged off the top of the right field wall and Donaldson – into his home run trot – was thrown out between first and second.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa took third on a two-base error after Gonzalez misplayed his single to right, scoring on Trevino’s go-ahead sac fly.

Rizzo’s two-run homer to right in the sixth ended the night for Cleveland starter Cal Quantrill.

Following Cole’s 6.1 innings, Jonathan Loaisiga, Wandy Peralta and Clay Holmes wrapped up the final eight outs.

“It was just a really awesome experience,” Cole said. “Sometimes when you feel the crowd or the energy, it sometimes can become a little easier just to quiet things down because it’s so loud. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it does to me.”

Peralta (back) and Holmes (shoulder) had just been activated off the injured list. Right-hander Miguel Castro made the ALDS roster cut after Scott Effross came up with an elbow injury.

An MRI showed a tear to his UCL, and Effross will likely undergo Tommy John surgery in the coming days.