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ALCS Game 6: Yankees Lose An Absolute Heartbreaker In Encapsulation of Their Season

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.

Up Next

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.


ALCS Game 5: Two More Just Like That, Please

Now THAT is more like it. The Yankees defeated the Astros 4-1 (box) on Friday night behind the left arm of James Paxton. The series is now 3-2, and we will return to Houston for a Game 6 tomorrow night. I would say that I’m sorry that these takeaways took me so long, but I am not sorry. They took so long because I have spent the last few hours pumped up and pacing my apartment, which didn’t feel like the best time to write. May we get two more games in this series just like this one.

Let’s get right to the takeaways.

1. Big Game James (Paxton): When Brian Cashman traded for James Paxton last November, in hindsight at the expense of signing Patrick Corbin, it was to be a frontline starter for a championship-caliber New York Yankees team. That is not an easy task. It comes with an expectation that you will perform on the biggest stage under the brightest lights. While I understand that tonight’s game was not a World Series game, it’s difficult to imagine a non-World Series game with bigger stakes: taking the ball with a 3-1 deficit at Yankee Stadium facing Justin Verlander. And boy oh boy did James Paxton deliver.

Here was his line on the night, in what can only be described as a triumphant performance for the lefty: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 9 K. Of his 112 pitches, just 74 (64%) went for strikes, but much like Gerrit Cole did three days ago, James Paxton limited the damage and held down the fort. Here is his strike zone plot:

According to Brooks Baseball, Paxton generated 20 whiffs on 55 swings (36%) which will get the damn job done. His maximum velocity was 97 mph. It was a big-time performance. Anyway, on to the specifics.

More first inning trouble for James. After reaching base on a misplayed soft grounder lead off the game (it was ruled a single), Springer would come around to score on a wild pitch from Paxton. That was all the Astros would get. He settled down, allowed just 3 more hits, and would strike out 9 batters. There were pitches like this:

And this:

And this:

But none of these are the defining moment of this game. That one came in the 6th inning. With Carlos Correa on base and Yordan Álvarez up, Paxton had about 100 pitches. He would retire the struggling rookie on strikes, and then Aaron Boone came out to remove him. And then this happened:

The crowd booed Boone as he came out to remove him and Paxton was feeling it. He told Boone to go back where he came from, and as I said on Twitter at the time, I absolutely loved it and thought it was the right decision. Robinson Chirinos came up to bat and launched a 100 mph fly ball off the bat that, if this were the regular season ball, would have been a home run…but was instead a harmless out that died on the track. And like that, James Paxton’s night was over. And what a night it was.

2. A First Inning Breakthrough…off Justin Verlander: In 7 postseason appearances against the Yankees, Justin Verlander had never lost a game. That dates 13 seasons, and across 4 series (this being the 5th), the Yankees have never even beaten his team. Detriot eliminated New York in 2006, 2011, 2012, and the Astros, of course, ended the Yanks’ season in 2017. Verlander has played a huge role in each of those series and has seemingly always deflated New York.

There is still a long way to go in this series, but that backdrop is why Yankee Stadium sounded as loud as I can remember it sounding in tonight’s first inning. After Paxton gave up the lead in the top of the first, it would have been easy to assume that the Yankees would lie down. But lie down they did not. Here is how DJ “It’s French For ‘Derek Jeter'” LeMahieu led off the game:

Of course it was DJ, who has been just as reliably consistent in the postseason as he was in the offseason. What a truly tremendous baseball player. After that, Judge lined a single and Torres ripped a double down the left field line. Giancarlo struck out. That brought up Aaron Hicks–who, you might remember, I wasn’t convinced deserved a shot after missing so much time. Dear reader, I am an idiot. A true moron. He is having the most consistently great at-bats on the Yankees, and tonight was no exception. It was a six-pitch at-bat, and the sixth pitch was an absolute missile off the foul pole in right field that gave the Yankees a 4-1 lead. There are a few angles here worth showing. Here is the official video:

Here is the Sterling call:

Here is the raw Stadium audio:

That is just so beautiful. It was a no-doubter. The only thing that was in question was whether or not it would be fair. My personal favorite part? Verlander’s little collapse on the mound there. He knew. I knew. Hicks knew. Everyone knew.

Finally, I would be remiss to not point out that this was the exact same script as the previous two games. The top part of the order put traffic on the basepaths against the Astros starter, except this time, they capitalized. And as we saw, that’s critically important–because you never know when you get another chance. Tonight, the Yankees didn’t get another chance, but I don’t think we’ll be hearing much about the Yankees postseason failures. Funny what just one at-bat can do to a narrative.

3. A Big Time Performance from the Bullpen: After Paxton was removed from the game, Boone turned to the bullpen for 9 outs against the Astros. He first turned to Kahnle, which makes sense, but Tommy Tightpants did not have it. He got a first out, then surrendered a hit to Springer and walked Altuve. With the tying run at the plate in the form of Michael Brantley, Boone made the right decision and went to Zack Britton. He got a groundout that was almost a double play, which then brought up Alex Bregman. Folks, if you want a marquee matchup, you got one. Britton got Bregman to fly out to Hicks in center, and that was that. Just a huge performance from Britton, who also retired the side in order (with 2 Ks) in the top of the 8th. Aroldis Chapman retired the side in order in the 9th, and we are heading to Houston.

A few notes on this: when the Yankees say their super bullpen is going to get the job done, this is exactly what they have in mind. Those were big boy innings right there, and Britton and Chapman were up to the task. Here’s another benefit. Check out the pitch counts:

  • Tommy Kahnle: 8 pitches
  • Zack Britton: 18 pitches
  • Aroldis Chapman: 9 pitches

I know Kahnle was ineffective, but the relatively short bullpen stints for all of them–and complete rest for Green, who I expect will start tomorrow–mean they’ll all be 100% able to go tomorrow. A truly great performance right there.


  • Lineup Woes: Man, aside from the top 3 batters in DJLM, Judge, and Gleyber, the Yankees lineup just continued to struggle tonight. They went a combined 1-18 (.055) with 8 strikeouts (including 3 more from Gary). The one hit? Well, I already showed that one above. Goes to show you how, again, just capitalizing once can make a world of a difference. Anyway, hopefully the entire lineup wakes up tomorrow and roars back to life. That sure would be nice.
  • Justin Verlander’s Performance: I also have to tip my cap to Justin Verlander, as much as I truly cannot stand him. He is my least favorite athlete right now and I have a true healthy sports hate for the guy. That’s because he terrifies me and has carved up the Yankees for years. There’s nothing else to it. But yet again, he showed why he is one of the best in the business. He not only settled down, but he provided serious length and allowed all of the Astros’ big relievers to rest for tomorrow’s bullpen day. That’s something to remember tomorrow, but for now we just enjoy it. There was also this:

Up Next

Folks, we have a Game 6. The Yankees and Astros will depart for Houston after this game and we will be right back here tomorrow at 8:08 pm. Both teams will be relying on their bullpens–baseball is so weird now–and the Yankees will try to fight off elimination for one more night. I think they should do that, but hey, that’s just one guy’s opinion.

ALCS Game 4: The One Where You Force Quit and Start the Game Over

Well that was insanely disappointing. The Yankees laid an absolute egg tonight, falling to the Astros 8-3. They played sloppy defense, wasted plenty of offensive opportunities, and looked awful. It prompted a lot of soul-searching on my Twitter timeline, so let me remind you: this was NOT an elimination game. It wasn’t good, and the Yankees will now have to beat both Cole and Verlander 2 out of 3 nights (with 2 games coming in Houston), but they live to play another day. They trail in this series 3-1.

With this awful backdrop in mind, let’s get right to the takeaways.

1. Masahiro Tanaka was Not Sharp: Game 1 Masahiro Tanaka was as impressive a performance as you could ever imagine. He was sharp, lived on the corners, elicited swings and misses, and didn’t make any mistakes. To do so on the road in Minute Maid Park against this Houston Astros lineup was just incredible. Expecting a repeat performance was probably too much, and it turns out that it was. Tanaka was not nearly as sharp tonight. Here is his line: 5+ IP, 4 H, 4 R (3 ER), 2 BB, 1 K. He threw 82 pitches and just 51 (62%) went for strikes. Here’s how that looks:

A lot way off the plate, a lot over the plate, and not much on the corners. It was evident from the very first at-bat that Tanaka wasn’t as sharp as he was last weekend, at least to me, and it felt like he was walking on eggshells the entire start. In the top of the 3rd inning, after a walk to 8th hitter Robison Chirinos and base hit to 9th hitter Josh Reddick, Tanaka finally paid the price. George Springer came to the plate and he did this:

That was just Springer’s second hit of the ALCS, but I’m sure you remember the other one. That sucked the life out of the Stadium and put the Astros ahead 3-1. It was a very bad pitch from Tanaka, too. A hanging splitter. Check it out:

Yeah, that one is begging to be crushed. Oh well. Not much we can do about it now. With that being said, though, Tanaka really bore down after this. After Altuve beat out an infield single and Brantley followed suit, he got Alex Bregman to ground back to him, though the Astros managed to advance, again, in a rundown. But Tanaka retired the next two batters on fly balls–one including a missile from Judge to hold the runner–to hold the Astros to just the one big fly. He would then get through 5 innings.

It was not a bad performance by any means, and it showed a lot of Tanaka’s trademark steel. It makes the one mistake he did make to Springer all the more frustrating, though.

Interestingly, Boone opted to send Tanaka out for the top of the 6th. I did not like the move. It felt like he was trying to steal an additional inning from Tanaka–who, admittedly, looked sharper than he had at any point in the game in the prior two innings–but he removed him right after Alex Bregman hit a cueball that DJLM misplayed at first. Oh well.

2. The Super Bullpen That Wasn’t: In each of the last three games, the Yankee bullpen has come up short when it counted. Before you yell at me in the comments, let me be clear: they have been, by and large, utterly fantastic. Nearly 8 fantastic innings in Game 2, kept the game mostly within reach in Game 3, et cetera. But for the second time in three seasons–the Yankees were just utterly outclassed in every regard last year–some flaws of the super-bullpen approach are becoming clear. It is extremely difficult to rely on the same 4-5 pitchers every single game against the same lineup in a short series.

The strategy relies on each pitcher bringing their A+ game in a high-leverage situation every single night, and it is exacerbated when only one starter can complete 5 innings. Tonight was again an example. Here are the lines from the big relievers:

  • Chad Green: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 K
  • Tommy Kahnle: 1.0 IP, 1 BB
  • Adam Ottavino: 0.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R

Chad Green has been outstanding. He really has been. I don’t think there’s any question that he has been the most reliable reliever in the Yankee pen in the postseason, but when called on every single day, you’re bound to run out of gas at some point, and tonight he looked gassed. He surrendered this blast to Carlos Correa:

Tommy Kahnle was good, as usual. Adam Ottavino was not. He has been completely useless over the last several weeks and the rigidity of “we need 4+ every night out of our bullpen” means that Aaron Boone had to keep using him. I don’t blame Aaron Boone for this. The team was constructed with this strategy in mind. It is simply untenable with just 3 reliable relievers, so you have to at least try to get Ottavino right. It just didn’t happen. Here is a stat that you probably don’t want to see:

I believe in these guys. I really do. They have been championship-caliber. But if the Yankees are going to pull this thing off, they are going to need to be spotless. They certainly can be.

3. Can I Get A Hit with RISP: All season, the Yankees were dominant with runners in scoring position. It was their calling card all year. It was the big difference between 2018 and 2019. But through four games in the ALCS, that ability has simply vanished. Again tonight, the Yankees left the bases loaded in the 1st inning–though they did score a run on a bases-loaded walk from Gardner. This one really hurt because Greinke did not have it at this point, the Stadium was energized, and it felt like an opportunity to really end this one early. It did not come to be.

They left the bases loaded again in the 5th, down just 3-1. Gleyber Torres and Edwin Encarnación both struck out. And on, and on, and on I could go. Overall, the Yankees went 0-7 with RISP tonight, which is not going to get the job done. And it was a group performance. Removing DJLM, this was the Yankees line: 3-30 (.100) with 1 HR, 2 RBI, 6 BB, and 13 strikeouts. It was a brutal offensive performance. Again, if the Yankees are going to do this thing, that’s going to have to change, and it’s going to have to change tomorrow.


  • The End for CC Sabathia: So, that’s the end for CC Sabathia, isn’t it? After the game was mostly out of reach, CC Sabathia came on in the 8th inning. There was nobody up behind him in the pen. At the very least, the 8th was his, and if I had to guess, the 9th was, too. Only CC’s body had other plans. After throwing a pitch to George Springer, CC came up limp. It was clear that his body–either his knee or his shoulder, it wasn’t immediately clear and I was too sad to really care–had given up on him. He tried to fight his way back into the game, of course, but Steve Donahue wouldn’t allow it. That was the end for CC. An injury forced him out of a miserable game, which is in some ways the saddest possible exit for the big man, but it was also fitting. CC was a warrior. He gave it his all and I will forever love him for it. CC Sabathia forever.
  • Embarrassing Defense: The Yankees’ defense tonight was truly embarrassing. They made four errors, three of them after the 7th inning, and it was a truly putrid performance. The stellar defense from the ALDS feels like a lifetime ago, and frankly, the defense was fine even early in this game. The shifts worked and they ate up some hard hit balls. But that fell apart really quick, with the normally sturdy defenders in Torres and DJ LeMahieu both making errors that led to runs. When it rains, it pours, eh?
  • Home Plate Umpiring: Home Plate umpire Dan Bellino did not have a great night. He was consistently inconsistent, and it impacted both teams. It felt like there were several pitches that weren’t even close that were called strikes or that were clearly strikes that were called balls. Just as an example, a 1-0 pitch to Aaron Judge in the bottom of the 6th inning completely changed the at-bat when it was called a strike. In the bottom of the 7th, proving that this worked both ways, a pitch that was clearly a strike to Aaron Hicks was called a ball. This on top of what felt like a very wide zone for Zack Greinke. I don’t like to complain about the umpires, but this did not feel like a good performance from the man in blue.

Up Next

The Yankees will take on the Astros in an elimination game tomorrow night at 7:08 pm in the Bronx. James Paxton will take on Justin Verlander. I know tonight feels like an elimination game, but it was not an elimination game. I can think of no pitcher more satisfying to start a huge comeback against than Justin Verlander. Let’s get it done, shall we?

ALCS Game 3: Offense falters against imperfect Cole

Embed from Getty Images

First of all, thanks for your patience waiting for this recap to go up. The 4 o’clock start was pretty inconvenient for us. Anyway, not a great one to recap! The Yankees dropped Game 3 to the Astros, 4-1, and now train the best-of-seven series 2-1.

Houston jumped on Luis Severino early before he could settle down, and even though Gerrit Cole had to battle through the first five innings, the Yankees could never capitalize against him. Let’s get to the takeaways:

Luis Severino bends, but doesn’t break

From the get go, it was apparent that Luis Severino didn’t have his A-game. The first inning was a battle from start to finish; he threw 36 pitches before escaping. Fortunately for him, Sevy only allowed one run. José Altuve clobbered a first pitch hanging slider into the left field seats to make it 1-0.

After Altuve’s homer, Severino loaded the bases. Up came Game 2 hero, Carlos Correa. The star shortstop popped up to end the frame. Crisis averted, but Severino’s struggles weren’t over just yet.

In the top of the second, Severino hung a slider again. This time, to Josh Reddick, one of the two weak links in Houston’s lineup. But even a below average major league hitter can crush a cement mixer into the right field seats at Yankee Stadium. That made it 2-0.

At that point, it sure seemed like Severino’s night should been nearing an end. Instead, he surprisingly pitched into the fifth inning. He had an easy six pitch third inning and worked around a two out double in the fourth frame.

Things got weird in the fifth, though no damage was done. There was a lengthy delay to start the top of the inning because home plate umpire Jeff Nelson needed to be removed with a concussion. It took a long time for Kerwin Danley to replace him. So, with Sevy through four mostly shaky innings with 90 pitches and a long delay between the fourth and fifth, it looked dangerous to try to steal one more inning. Severino retired Altuve to open the frame, but a single and a walk ended Sevy’s night before Chad Green bailed him out of the fifth.

Tonight marked Severino’s seventh postseason start in which he couldn’t finish the fifth inning. He’s made eight total starts, the one good one being Game 4 of the 2017 ALDS against Cleveland. It may be asking a lot of a guy who missed nearly all of 2019 to pitch better in the playoffs, but it’s been frustrating for a couple of years now. He’s capable of dominating, but just has not come through. At least in this ballgame, he didn’t blow up and kept things close.

Too many missed opportunities vs. Gerrit Cole

Cole may have thrown seven shutout innings today, but it was evident that he didn’t have his best stuff either. He escaped trouble on multiple occasions and stranded nine Yankees in this one. It’s one thing to get beat by Cole because he’s dominant, but it’s very frustrating to blow multiple opportunities against him when he’s not at his best.

The first blown chance was in the first frame. DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge led off the game with back-to-back singles. Brett Gardner, unexpectedly hitting third, flew out. Then, the cleanup hitter, Edwin Encarnación popped up for the second out. Gleyber Torres followed with a walk on four pitches to load the bases. And then, inexplicably, Didi Gregorius grounded out on a first pitch changeup. You have to take a pitch in that situation after Cole’s thrown four straight out of the zone.

The Yankees put a couple of runners aboard again in the second inning, but to no avail. With two outs, Aaron Hicks walked and LeMahieu singled. Cole rebounded to strike out Judge to get out of it.

Cole threw a 1-2-3 third inning, but ran into danger again in the fourth. The Yankees staged a mini two out rally: Gio Urshela and Hicks drew back-to-back walks. However, LeMahieu flew out to center to end the frame.

The fifth was the closest the Yankees got to getting on the board. In another two out rally, Encarnación doubled an Torres walked. That brought up Gregorius, who again swung at a first pitch, but this time seemingly had a three-run dinger off the bat. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Did the de-juiced baseball strike again? Sure looked that way.

Cole may have seemed to be on the ropes, but he finished strong. He retired all six batters he faced in the sixth and seventh frames to end his night. In all though, the Yankees stranded nine runners. I get that Cole is elite and is capable of escaping those sort of jams more often than not, but at some point, a good offense has to make him pay.

The seventh inning mess

At the end of the day, the ugly top of the seventh inning didn’t matter since the Yankees only plated one run. That said, it sort of epitomized an ugly night of baseball for the home team.

Adam Ottavino started the inning against his Game 2 nemesis, George Springer. No homer allowed this time, but Ottavino wound up walking Houston’s leadoff hitter. From there, it was off to the races. Ottavino is notoriously slow to the plate, and everyone knew Springer was gonna run at some point. To make it worse though, Springer and Altuve executed a perfect hit and run on the first pitch to the second baseman.

That was it for Ottavino, who ceded to Zack Britton. Yet another bad outing for Ottavino who has really struggled lately.

Britton wasn’t able to put out the fire. Later in the frame, he uncorked a wild pitch and allowed a sacrifice fly to make the score 4-0 at the time.

The lineup needs to be optimized

When the lineups came out early this afternoon, I was very surprised to see Brett Gardner slotted third. I didn’t love EE hitting cleanup either, especially after what I wrote yesterday, but I get hit because of his reputation. Those two went 1-for-8 with 4 runners left on base. Now, hitters six through nine went hitless (but did draw three walks and Didi nearly homered), so it’s not just the three and four hitters’ faults.

Boone tried to explain his batting order after the game:

Frankly, that just makes no sense. Houston didn’t roster one southpaw, so splitting up the left handed hitters shouldn’t matter. Bradford William Davis of the Daily News followed up about this, but Boone danced around it again with not much of a response.

The Yankees only run came in the eighth inning, when Gleyber Torres hit an opposite field homer off Astros’ reliever Joe Smith. That made it 4-1 at the time. For whatever reason, Torres hit fifth tonight after batting third in the first two games. Really just doesn’t make sense to move him down.


  • With today’s loss, the Yankees will have to win at least one more game in Houston in order to advance to the World Series.
  • After Severino exited, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle delivered 1 2/3 clean innings before Boone went to Ottavino in the seventh.
  • The weather tomorrow looks miserable. Nothing’s been announced yet, but don’t count on Game 4 being played until Thursday. That would push Game 5 to Friday and eliminate the day off between Games 5 and 6.

Hopefully the Yankees can even the series tomorrow, weather permitting. First pitch is scheduled for 8:08pm, but we’ll see about that. Have a good night everyone.

ALCS Game 2: Astros tie series as Yankees falter in extra innings

Out at the plate (MLB Gifs)

Carlos Correa hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning as the Astros beat the Yankees in ALCS Game 2 to even the series. Aaron Judge homered for the Yankees’ only runs, while the Bombers needed 7 2/3 innings from their bullpen after James Paxton struggled. (Box Score)

To the recap!

Battle of the Bullpens

After seven innings, both starters were out of the game and each side had two runs. Though the Yankees had already gotten 4 2/3 innings from the pen, the game was even as Houston has nowhere near as deep a bullpen.

Will Harris relieved Verlander and got two outs before walking Judge. With one out in the eighth inning, AJ Hinch didn’t hesitate to go to closer Roberto Osuna. Osuna has owned the Yankees in his career. This was no different. The right-hander sat five straight Bombers down in order to get through the ninth.

Meanwhile, Zack Britton pitched for the second straight day to lead off the eighth and pitched around a walk to Alex Bregman for a scoreless inning. Struck out Yordan Alvarez on a wicked slider.

On came Aroldis Chapman. Aaron Boone became the second manager in three years to go to Chapman, his closer, in a tie game in ALCS Game 2. This time, Chapman wouldn’t surrender the walk-off homer. He struck out three around a walk.

However, Houston pushed Chapman to 25 pitches despite a sharp slider and 100-mph velocity, limiting him to one inning. After Jose Smith sat the Yankees down 1-2-3 in the 10th, Boone went to CC Sabathia to get out Michael Brantley and he did the thing as the LOOGY, inducing a weak grounder.

Behind him was Jonathan Loaisiga, who walked two before J.A. Happ cleaned up his mess by retiring Alvarez and Yuli Gurriel.

The Yankees threatened in the 11th with a walk from Edwin Encarnación and a single by Brett Gardner, but Gary Sánchez struck out to end the threat. He looked lost, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.

In the bottom of the 11th, Carlos Correa needed one pitch to finish the job, lifting the walk-off homer to right field off Happ.

The Yankees have lost their last four postseason extra-inning games and haven’t won an extra-inning road playoff game since 2004 ALDS Game 4.

Only Judge gets to Verlander

Justin Verlander brought it for the first time through the order. After a dud on short rest in the ALDS, he was his sharp self and had the aggressive Yankees off-balance for three innings, setting the Bombers down in order. Established high with the fastball, got swings and misses with breaking and offspeed stuff down with little resistance.

That changed in the fourth inning. DJ LeMahieu earned a walk on six pitches and brought up Aaron Judge. For the second time this season, Judge took Verlander out to right field in Houston.

Verlander’s slider hung up for Judge, who was more than willing to take it the other way. It was his first significant mistake.

If only the HR had held up. (Lindsey Adler/Twitter)

The second and third time through the order, the Yankees worked JV. Gleyber Torres had a seven-pitch AB and Didi Gregorius took him to a ninth pitch after a Cameron Maybin single.

Still, Verlander held them at two going into the sixth. He hung another pitch for LeMahieu, who singled, and then Judge drove one to right. It looked gone in previous months, but it died at the warning track for a flyout.

The Yankees strung together hits and kept pressure on Verlander. Torres singled and with two outs, Gardner hit a hard ball at Jose Altuve. The ball ricocheted off the second baseman and LeMahieu was sent home to try and score.

However, Carlos Correa was heads up, scampered to the ball and fired a strike home to get DJLM. Some take issue with the send, but putting the pressure on the defense often works there (Remember 2017 ALCS Game 2?). Just didn’t this time.

Verlander retired two hitters in the seventh before walking Maybin. Overall, he went 6 2/3 innings, allowing just four hits and walking one. His only runs came on the homer, but the Bombers hit him well with a couple balls to the wall and liners at fielders.

Paxton Falls Flat

For the first time this postseason, one of the Yankees’ starters had a significant off-night. James Paxton didn’t have it in ALCS Game 2 and the Astros were all over him.

Paxton wasn’t sharp as he missed with both his fastball and curveball early in the game. He staved off doom in the first inning with a double play after a leadoff walk, but the second inning would give him more trouble.

Bregman led off with a 106.7 mph single and Paxton quickly walked Alvarez with misplaced fastballs. Two batters later, Correa lined a double down the left field line to produce a run.

The left-hander got out of the jam with two strikeouts, but he was lifted after back-to-back one-out singles in the third inning.

There was plenty of talk that he was tipping pitches as he did in Houston in April, but I haven’t seen anything conclusive yet. Whether or not he was, he wasn’t commanding his pitches and paid the price, which forced Aaron Boone’s hand.

Bullpenning after Paxton

With Paxton getting just seven outs, Boone trusted his bullpen to match Verlander and the Astros inning-for-inning. First up, Chad Green.

Green was masterful. He got Bregman to line out before retiring Alvarez on a harmless pop up. He cruised through four batters before getting lifted after retiring the No. 9 batter, leaving with a lead after the Judge homer.

But Ottavino couldn’t hold the advantage. He hung a slider on his first pitch to George Springer and it was blasted out to left-center field. It was just his second homer allowed since July. He struck out Brantley and Bregman around an Altuve single, but the Brantley single snuck past Gary Sanchez to allow a batter to reach.

Tommy Kahnle relieved Ottavino for Alvarez and struck him out on a changeup. In a hectic sixth inning, he got all three batters out, but the first two smoked balls. It appeared Correa had put Houston ahead, but his ball died in the left-center field warning track.

But Kahnle was masterful in the seventh with a K and two weak outs. He recorded seven outs for just the third time in his career and first time since the 2017 Wild Card Game. Props to Tommy Tightpants.


  • The Yankees’ last postseason victory in extra innings was the Raúl Ibañez game in 2012.
  • Encarnación is in a mini-slump. He is 0-for-14 with two walks since the third inning of ALDS Game 2. However, he drew a walk in his final appearance of the night.
  • Judge, Maybin and LeMahieu each had a walk and hit. Gardner had two singles, Torres had one. Aaron Judge had the Yankees’ only extra-base hit.
  • Aaron Hicks pinch-hit to lead off the 10th and grounded out before taking over in center. Gardner shifted over to left.
  • Man, Kyle Tucker looked bad at the plate. Luckily for him, the Astros’ big guns did the work. The top four in the order + Correa to be exact.

Monday is a day off in the series and the teams will play ALCS Game 3 on Tuesday at 4:08 p.m. It’ll be Luis Severino against Gerrit Cole in a matchup of flamethrowers.

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