It’ll be their fourth division series appearance since 2016 — though that’s the last year they advanced to the American League Championship Series.
“There’s no way to describe it,” said Gonzalez, who punctuated his shot off Corey Kluber with an emphatic bat flip before strutting toward first. “It was such an exciting moment that it’s hard for me to put into words.”
Cleveland will face the New York Yankees beginning on Tuesday in New York. It’ll be a contrast in styles as the Yankees led MLB in home runs while the Guardians ranked 29th in that category.
Meanwhile, the Guardians struck out the least in baseball and will take on a Yankees staff that ranked second in strikeouts in the American League. Adding intrigue to the series, the Yankees defeated the Cleveland franchise in the playoffs in both 2020 and 2017.
Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti isn’t buying any David vs. Goliath storyline.
“We haven’t gotten caught up with that and what the external narrative has been around our team,” he said. “These guys have written their own story.
“The Yankees are obviously a great team and we know we have our work cut out for us, but these guys embrace the challenge.”
By sweeping the best-of-three series, the Guardians avoided using starter Cal Quantrill, so he’s the likely Game 1 starter against the Yankees. New York is leaning toward Gerrit Cole for Game 1, though manager Aaron Boone hasn’t fully committed to him for Tuesday.
Gonzalez was among 17 players to make their debut for the Guardians this season, so perhaps it was fitting he advanced them.
“I don’t think by that point we cared,” manager Terry Francona said. “It could have been one of the old guys. We didn’t care. We’re not biased. I was happy that he hit it.”
Tampa Bay was bounced quickly from its fourth straight postseason appearance. The Rays finished with seven straight losses, scored one run in the series and hit .115 (9-for-78) with one extra-base hit.
“I saw guys trying to do too much,” manager Kevin Cash said. “We were looking for the three-run homer with nobody on base. When you take that mindset against good pitchers, they can kind of sit you down.”
Gonzalez’s shot off Kluber, who won two Cy Young Awards with Cleveland, finished a game that began at 12:08 p.m. and ended in twilight.
The tense 4-hour, 57-minute game was the longest 0-0 affair in postseason history, surpassing the 2020 NL Wild Card Series opener between Atlanta and Cincinnati that went 13 innings. The teams combined for a postseason-record 39 strikeouts — 20 by Rays batters.
“Nobody said it would be easy,” Francona said. “But just keep playing. And they did a really good job of that. They continue to do that.”
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.