The Yankees had been dead for about an hour, give or take a double play, and now was just the formality, the part where Roberto Osuna put the finishing touches on the ALCS.
DJ LeMahieu wasn’t playing that game. Fighting off pitch after pitch, he worked the count and got a pitch to drive. The result? The most important home run of his career, a game-tying two-run shot to knot ALCS Game 6 with the Yankees down to their final two outs.
Let’s rewatch it for old time’s sake:
Like many of you, I jumped up and down. Did that really happen, I thought. With new life for the Bombers, your mind instantly turns to what could be, a chance to actually topple the juggernaut Astros in their own building.
Here’s the thing: LeMahieu’s spot in history was robbed mere minutes later by Jose Altuve’s series-ending blast. Instead of a moment for the pantheon of Yankees’ history, LeMahieu instead will have to settle for a footnote to another team’s signature highlight.
It was just about the perfect homer, too. Not an elegant, no-doubt blast like Altuve. Instead, it was a ball teetering in your mind between whether it would stay in play in Houston’s diminutive right field.
LeMahieu’s reaction was muted, but the iconic photo would have been George Springer sprawled out over the fence while trying to steal the ball, coming juuuuust short of the crowd-hushing home run.
Yet the Yankees didn’t take the lead, merely tied it, and that left the door open for Altuve to finish things in style. That’s not LeMahieu’s fault; He was the Yankees’ most consistent hitter all regular season and into the postseason as well. The prototypical leadoff hitter.
Even in the positive moments we’ll remember from this postseason, LeMahieu gets overshadowed. His first home run in ALDS Game 1 came sandwiched between Gleyber Torres’ go-ahead double and Brett Gardner’s second-deck tater. LeMahieu’s solo shot to tie ALCS Game 5 was forgotten four batters later when Aaron Hicks hit one to the literal sticks.
LeMahieu has company in possessing an earth-shattering blast turned trivia question. Alfonso Soriano came through with two of the most clutch hits in Yankees history during the 2001 World Series. Soriano hit a walk-off single to end the Yankees Classic Game 5 and homered off Curt Schilling to put the Bombers ahead in Game 7.
Soriano’s place in history was all but assured — Roger Clemens had World Series MVP on lock, but the homer would live on — until fate, an errant throw and a bloop single conspired to erase that home run and give the D-backs the series.
After a replacement level 2001, Soriano broke out in 2002 as he nearly joined the 40-40 club and took over as one of the Yankees’ best hitters. LeMahieu doesn’t need to break out because 2019 was his moment, likely the peak season for the tight-lipped infielder who anchored the Bombers’ lineup.
LeMahieu’s season won’t be forgotten any time soon. The under-the-radar signing made himself indispensable and a borderline MVP candidate in the Bronx. He was clutch from the start with his impressive numbers with the bases loaded, as well as two walk-off hits during the season, and his unwavering focus steadied him for a strong October.
That being said, despite hitting one of the most dramatic home runs possible, LeMahieu’s standout moment was all for naught. Its memory will remain enclosed in the pain of watching Altuve blast an Aroldis Chapman slider into smithereens and thus can’t have the spotlight to itself. Baseball has room for only one victor and to that team goes both the spoils and the moments staked into history.