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Aaron Civale and Jameson Taillon take the mound with everything on the line<br/>This is what you watch for, right? This is why players play, this is why kids want to be baseball players when they grow up.  Guardians fans, a winner-take-all game in the postseason is upon us when the Guards and Yankees take the field in Game 5 of the ALDS tonight at 7:07 p. m.  ET.  Granted, it never feels good getting here when you had a shot at elimination the day before.  And the Guards did have a chance to close out the Yankees at home Sunday night, but Gerrit Cole proved to be worth every penny and shut the lineup down for seven innings.  Cal Quantrill and the bullpen did their part to keep it close, but two miracle comebacks in a row was just too much to ask.  So we're here now, with Aaron Civale taking the mound for the first time since Oct.  5, and just the fifth since coming off his latest injured list stint.  What to expect him from is anybody's guess.  In the past he's looked like anything from an ace, to an excellent tinkerer, to someone who should probably be in Triple-A.  The spectrum of Aaron Civale's ability on any given night is a vast enigma.  Bob Costas seemed convinced on the broadcast yesterday that Game 5 would be a bullpen game for both teams, despite the fact that Civale has gone at least five innings in 11 of his 20 starts this season, including each of his last five.  The Yankees in October are a different beast than the Royals, Rangers, and White Sox teams that Civale faced when he returned from a forearm injury in late September, but his arm is well-rested enough to go a good few innings if he's rolling.  I would suspect a hard limit on going the third time through the order, but unless he just can't find the zone in the first inning, it would seem ill-advised to go straight to the bullpen, even one as deep as the Guardians'.  For his part, Terry Francona said after the Game 4 loss that he told Civale the plan is not to worry about it and to "just keep pitching until we take you out. " That's some typical rah-rah manager stuff, but it feels like Civale is going to pitch as long as he's effective.  And that friends, is the real question  how long can he be effective? Civale battled through multiple injuries this season to put up a career-worst 4. 92 ERA in 97 innings.  He was first placed on the 15-day injured list with left glute soreness on May 25 and returned on June 22.  He lasted less than a month before a wrist injury on July 13 sidelined him until Aug
.  6.  Some of his best starts of the season came after he returned, but he was once again interrupted by an injury, this time forearm inflammation on Sept.  2.  He returned on Sept.  20 to pitch a handful of games down the stretch.  Civale has faced the Yankees twice this season and the results were not pretty.  The squeamish may want to look away.  In the first game, on April 24, Civale was knocked out after just three innings and six runs allowed.  He threw 61 pitches in the start, 25 of which were cutters to go with his four other pitches.  Nothing was particularly effective for him that day, as the box score would suggest.  His second start against New York, on July 2, came in Game 2 of a doubleheader.  He made it to 99 pitches through six innings that day, mostly with his sinker and curveball, but he fared better, but hardly flawless, with four earned runs and six strikeouts.  As I've said in most of these pitching previews, however, the pre-All-Star Break Yankees were a completely different beast than they are now.  They were an unstoppable behemoth  destined to break the Mariners' 116-win record if you ask their loudest fans  before the wheels started to fall off.  They've recovered, obviously, but their offense is not without massive holes now.  Civale just has to work around them. Civale is a pitcher who likes to work a different pitch in each quadrant of the strike zone  cutter up and in, curveball down, sinker away, and four-seamer in.  He'll mix a splitter and slider occasionally, though they are both fading fast in usage
.  His sinker and that rarely-used splitter play really well off each other, though, with just enough difference in horizontal break that they look similar but the changeup drops to fool batters.  I certainly wouldn't mind seeing him break out that combination to put Aaron Hicks or Josh Donaldson in the spin cycle.  Even through the injuries, Civale has maintained an incredible spin rate on both his fastball and curveball this season.  At his best, which would be mostly 2019, he was able to leverage that spin into elite barrel avoidance.  Sadly, 2019 feels like a lifetime ago for so many reasons.  I would expect to see a lot of his high-cutters and sinkers tonight against an aggressive Yankee team that tends to whiff on pitches up the zone.  Cal Quantrill tried it in Sunday's loss, but one too many found the heart of the zone.  How long Civale lasts will be determined by how well he avoids doing that.  If he can't, well, the good news is the Guardians own a sizable advantage in the bullpen.  Both because their best pitchers are well-rested thanks to Cody Morris and Zach Plesac pitching their minds out last night, and because they are absolutely loaded with quality arms back there
.  Everyone will presumably be available if needed tonight but expect a heavy dose of Trevor Stephan, James Karinchak, Enyel De Los Santos, and Emmanuel Clase when needed. On the other end, the Yankees will be sending 30-year-old Jameson Taillon to the mound.  Unlike the Guardians  who will probably be a bullpen game  the Yankees will definitely be having a bullpen game with Taillon starting.  The right-hander was the losing pitcher in Cleveland's 4-2 comeback win in Game 2 Friday, as he allowed two earned runs and didn't record a single out.  Taillon threw only 18 pitches in the loss, two of which were hit for doubles and a single by Oscar Gonzalez.  Taillon finished 2022 with a 3. 91 ERA over his 32 starts as a quintessential mid-rotation guy.  He ate some innings for the Yankees, had some blowouts, and not many dominant outings, but he mostly kept games close.  A peak Josh Tomlin without the home runs, if you will.  Any concern about Civale going against the Yankees offense is legitimate, but don't count out how gettable the Yankees bullpen is.  The bread-and-butter of the Guardians wins this series has been exploiting the paper mache boat that Aaron Boone is forced to ride out there every night, and now it's all he has.  Let's hope Aaron Civale channels his inner Ryan Merritt tonight in the Bronx. 

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