Heartbreaker — ALCS Game 2: Houston 3 NY 2 in 11 Innings

Aaron Judge‘s 2-run home run in the 4th accounted for the only runs the Yanks could muster against Justin Verlander and the Houston bullpen in this heartbreaker that evened the playoff series at 1 game apiece.

The Yanks had gotten their split in Houston and still hold the home field advantage in the series that shifts back to Yankee Stadium Tuesday at 4pm. But the Yanks were ‘this close’ to going up 2-0 in games.

Verlander looked unhittable early, until Aaron Judge hit a 2-run shot to center in the 4th to give the Yanks a 2-1 lead.

James Paxton didn’t last long. Aaron Boone gave no quarter. Paxton was iffy from the start, falling behind 1-0 and working in and out of more trouble, when Boone lifted him in with one out in the 3rd after two consecutive singles and brought in Chad Green. Green was dominant — pitching 2 flawless innings — striking out Kyle Tucker to lead off the 5th but then being replaced by Adam Ottavino who had pitched so well the night before.

The Tie Game

On this night, Ottavino hung a slider to his first batter, centerfielder George Springer, for a monster homer to centerfield and a tie game. Yankee Twitter was apoplectic.

Ottavino got into further trouble although not his fault — he struck out leftfielder Michael Brantley but the pitch got away from Gary Sanchez and Brantley reached 1st safely. Then Jose Altuve hit a weak grounder that just eluded Didi Gregorius to his right for an infield single and runners on 1st and 3rd only 1 out. Ottavino hung tough to strike out Alex Bregman and then Tommy Kahnle came in to finish the job by striking out the big DH Yordan Alvarez.

Tommy Kahnle pitched 2.1 brilliant innings of shutout ball. Then Zack Britton pitched a shutout 8th and Aroldis Chapman a shutout 9th but the Yankees were running out of elite relievers. They could have used Dellin Betances.

The Yankee Rally that Wasn’t

The most notable Yankee rally besides the Judge homer came in the 6th against Verlander — DJ LeMahieu singled and Aaron Judge hit a shot to right field that looked like it could go when he hit it but it hung for a deep line out to the warning track. Gleyber Torres reached out and one handed a single past shortstop, Edwin Encarnacion flied out, which brought up Brett Gardner with 2 out 1st and 2nd. On a 3-2 pitch he hit a hard grounder to 2nd which bounced off Jose Altuve‘s glove for a single — the Yanks ran DJ LeMahieu to home but Carlos Correa barehanded the loose ball by 2nd and fired a strike home to nail LeMahieu dead to rights.

Yankee Twitter couldn’t understand why they ran LeMahieu — but if he stayed it would’ve been bases loaded and no guarantee the Yanks would have scored a run on Verlander.

Had the run scored — the Yanks would’ve had 3 runs in 6 innings on Verlander — the same damage they did to Zack Greinke the night before. But it didn’t.

Aaron Judge afterwards said the Yanks felt good against Verlander; they just didn’t get it done.

The End

CC Sabathia started the 10th, went 3-0 before coming back and Brantley to ground out and then was lifted for Jonathan Loaisiga, who walked two straight batters and was gone. J.A. Happ to the rescue — with a strikeout and flyout and it was to the 11th.

The Yanks rallied in the 11th — an Encarnacion walk and Brett Gardner line single to right put 1st and 2nd with 2 out and Gary Sanchez up. He swung and missed at strike 3 in the dirt but the ball bounded away and the ump thought Gary had fouled it. Given 2nd life, Sanchez took a called strike 3 outside the strike zone — the ump ‘giving one back’. Sanchez argued but what the heck he should have been swinging knowing he’d gotten a steal of a call on the prior pitch. Not a good look by Gary.

And then just as the FS1 (Fox) broadcast was coming back from commerical there was a home run ball hitting the seats — Correa with a walk off off a hapless JA Happ for the old ballgame.


Before the game it was announced Cameron Maybin was playing left instead of Giancarlo Stanton, sending Yankee Twitter into a flitter, checking if it was a matchup thing against Verlander. It wasn’t. Stanton had been 1-8 lifetime vs Verlander. Aaron Boone reported before game time that Stanton had injured his quadriceps on his first at bat the game before (before hitting a home run in his 3rd at bat). An MRI had revealed a strain. Giancarlo will be available for pinch hitting and may play later in the series. If they put him on the IL, replacing him with Luke Voit or Mike Ford, Stanton would be inelligible for the World Series if the Yankees get that far. Aaron Hicks did not get the start over Maybin because 1) he’s rusty and 2) it was a matchup thing — Hicks being 1 for 17 lifetime against Verlander.

Cameron Maybin got a hit and a walk; played well.

Gio Urshela made a spectacular play robbing Yuli Gurriel of a double down 3rd in the 6th — equaling the brilliant play Alex Bregman made the night before.

The Boxscore




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