Rock the baby! Naylor's HR trot is must-see

October 17th, 2022

CLEVELAND -- Not only does continue to deliver hits in the American League Division Series battle against the Yankees, he’s acting as their Guardian, pun totally intended.

In the fourth inning of Cleveland's 4-2 loss in Game 4 that evened the series at two games each, Naylor slugged a solo homer off Gerrit Cole, then provided a memorable celebration by “rocking the baby” as he rounded the bases.

At first glance, the rocking motion Naylor made with his arms looked like it could be a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Guardians’ oft-referenced age as the youngest team in this postseason. But it was apparently something different.

"Nayls, when he hits homers off people, he calls them his son,” teammate Triston McKenzie explained to’s Mandy Bell earlier this month. “Hence the rocking the baby as he runs around the bases."

Cole said later that he didn’t notice the gesture. His postgame reaction sounded like a stranger being forced to look at baby pictures.

“Yeah, whatever. It’s cute,” Cole said.

There was nothing sleepy about the home run, a 110.3 mph drive that traveled 405 feet on a line to right-center. It was the third-hardest hit homer of Naylor's career, and he punished a 97 mph fastball from Cole, who has allowed a home run in each of his last eight postseason appearances, tying Yu Darvish for the longest streak in postseason history. Darvish’s streak is also active as he and the Padres prepare for the National League Championship Series beginning Tuesday.

Naylor, Cleveland's cleanup hitter, finished the game 1-for-4 as the Guardians head back to New York for Monday's winner-take-all Game 5 and a Yankee Stadium crowd that’s more likely to sing Naylor a serenade than a lullaby.

Sunday marked the second consecutive game in this series with an eye-opening home run celebration. Yankees rookie Oswaldo Cabrera watched his Game 3 homer leave the park before flipping his bat toward the Yankees' dugout. The Guardians got the last laugh with a three-run rally built on singles.

Sunday turned the tables.

“We can’t get caught up in that,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Naylor’s celebration. “We’re trying to win.”

The 25-year-old Naylor entered the night 1-for-12 off the 32-year-old Cole, including an 0-for-3 performance in Game 1 of the series. That lone hit, however, was a home run on July 2 of this season, also to right-center at Progressive Field. The drive opened the scoring in that game, but the Yankees went on to a 13-4 win.