If the 2019 Yankees weren’t going to win the World Series, it is difficult to imagine a more fitting ending than the one we just saw. Against all odds, they rallied, fought, and clawed their way back into the game (and series) despite the fact that everything seemed destined to go against them. DJ LeMahieu, Derek Jeter reincarnate, hit a home run for the ages–the sort that make legends of Yankees, and athletes in general, but especially Yankees. But it was not meant to be, and José Altuve–of course, who else could it have been?–ripped the hearts out of all of us in the very next frame.
That’s how it went all season. One man back from injury, another down before you could catch your breath. So in many ways, tonight’s 9th inning was the perfect encapsulation of the team. The Yankees lost to the Astros 6-4 (box score) and thus will not be returning to the World Series. This will be the first decade since the 1910s that the Yankees did not win a pennant.
I’m going to be honest: I’m a bit numb, definitely in shock, and extremely sad. So, with that in mind, and for the final time in 2019, let’s get right to the takeaways.
1. The Early Bullpen (Mostly) Does the Job: All things considered, I’m not sure you could have asked for a better first 5 innings from the back of the bullpen. The combination of Chad Green, J.A. Happ (who had to have the worst birthday of his life), and Luis Cessa handed the ball off to the Yankees’ high-leverage relievers. Here are each of their lines:
- Chad Green: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 1 K
- J.A. Happ: 2.0 IP, zeros, 1 BB
- Luis Cessa: 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1K
I have a hard time even being mad at Green, to be honest. He gave up a back-breaking 3-run home run, to be sure, and it probably cost the Yankees a shot at Game 7. But he was a workhorse all postseason and was clearly gassed. Not to mention, this was the pitch:
That was a 96 mph fastball in on the hands and Gurriel just drilled it. Not much you can do about that except tip your cap. At-bats like that are the difference between winning the pennant and going home.
As for Happ and Cessa, this was a truly triumphant night for both of them. Happ obviously had a terrible season exacerbated by the juiced ball and Cessa had an honestly great season that managed to fly under the radar. It had to feel like a great personal achievement for both of them to rise to the occasion on the biggest stage. That’s one positive to take away here.
Anyway, that group turned the ball over to Kahnle, Ottavino, Britton, and Chapman with the score 3-2 Astros. Before the game, if you tell me that’s the situation, I’d have signed up for it 10/10 times. I can do nothing but tip my cap to these guys. I suggest you do the same. As for Kahnle (he was also out of gas), Britton, and Ottavino, they weren’t perfect but they were more than good enough. Again, I cannot stress enough how much these guys were running on fumes. They all deserve our respect.
2. The Offense Definitely Does Not Do the Job: Another very frustrating night for the Yankees on the offensive side of the ball for pretty much everyone not named DJ LeMahieu (more on him in a moment, obviously) or Gio Urshela. The Yankees had 22 at-bats with the tying run on base before the 9th inning and managed just 2 runs. They were 1-6 with runners in scoring position, and there were terrible at-bats all around in some huge cases. Didi Gregorius, in particular, had an atrocious first-pitch swinging at-bat with the bases loaded to bail out the Astros.
I could go into more detail, but it’s not necessary. If you watched any of the last 5 games before this one, you probably watched this one, too. But two moments, in particular, will stand out as heartbreakers.
First, after Gio Urshela hit a home run to make it 3-2 Astros, Brett Gardner hit a missile down the line that just missed leaving the yard. And I mean JUST missed. It was foul by maybe 5 feet. Off the bat, I yelled so loud that I thought my neighbors might call the police. So that was one of those moments.
The other was an Aaron Hicks flyout with men on base that again, I thought was a home run. I knew it wasn’t based off his reaction, but ugh. I thought he had the big one.
3. 9th Inning Madness: And then, well, the 9th inning happened. Gio Urshela, who had himself a real nice game with his glove and with his bat, led off with a single. After a Gardner struck out, DJ LeMahieu had an at-bat for the ages. Here is the strike zone plot:
And here is the video of the truly incredible moment:
Just incredible. I have nothing else to say about this guy. That was an all-time moment right there, and it is too bad what happened next…because…
Aroldis Chapman never gave the Yankees another opportunity. He absolutely blew away the first two batters of the inning before, in typical Chapman way, completely losing his way. He walked Springer and fell behind Altuve 2-0, and with Marisnick on deck, you could argue that he should have just walked him. But instead, he hung probably his worst pitch of the season and well, that’s that.
So ended the Yankees season, a week too early. I’m not going to link to the video. If you really want to see it, you can find it somewhere else. For what it’s worth, that may have been Chapman’s final pitch as a Yankee. More on that in a few days.
- A Long Offseason Ahead for Gary Sánchez: This is going to be a long offseason for Gary. He will be back next year and I am the world’s #1 Gary fan–there’s maybe only one catcher better in the league–but it is going to be a long, long offseason of second-guessing and slamming of the Kraken. And honestly, despite his RBI single tonight, his blocking took a major step backward in the last few games. The reaction will be disproportionate for reasons I don’t need to spell out to you, but you can’t say he won’t have earned some of it.
- Edwin Encarnación’s Struggles: Edwin Encarnación could not have been healthy for the last week of the season, because he wasn’t even close to looking like a major league hitter up there. He really cost the Yankees, and it also just demonstrates how hurt Stanton had to have been. If he couldn’t hit for this Encarnación, I don’t know if he could even walk.
- The Close of the Age of Gregorius: I have a feeling that was the last of the Age of Gregorius, and that makes me sad. I’ll reflect on this more in the days to come, but if that truly was it for Sir Didi, I have nothing but warm feelings for him. My perfect offseason brings him back, but at this point I would be surprised. I was in the Stadium for his grand slam against the Twins and for his 3-run HR in the AL Wild Card against the Twins, and he will forever hold a special place in my Yankee heart. I hope it’s not so, but if it is, we’ll always love you, Didi.
- Brett Gardner’s Swan Song: I expect Brett to be back but that also might have been the final game of Brett Gardner’s Yankee career. I think he comes back on a one-year deal, but again, if that’s it for Brett, nothing but love. One more time, and louder for the folks in the back: Brett Gardner forever.
Nothing but a long, cold offseason. I was not ready for the 2019 season to end, but here we are anyway. I’m never ready for the winter, and things are better with the Yankees in it. We’ll have more comprehensive reactions and analysis to all of this in the morning and in the weeks to come, but for now, this just sucks.
Anyway, I want to extend my sincere thank you to every single one of you who read even a single post on this site this season. It was been an incredible ride and from the bottom of my heart, I cannot thank you enough for coming on it with us. We will be here each and every step of the way through the bleak offseason and we will be here for the 2020 season, which will hopefully have a more uplifting final takeaway of the season. Thank you all again, and let’s go Yankees.