And just like that it was over. The DJ LeMahieu miracle 2-run homer to tie the game in the top of the 9th was wasted — as Jose Altuve‘s 2-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the 9th gave Houston the pennant and ended the Yankee season.
Devastation. The ending scene in First Blood came to mind.
The end came after one of the greatest moments in recent Yankee playoff history — the 1-out DJ LeMahieu homer in the 9th when all looked forlorn and the season over.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) October 20, 2019
Fickle Finger of Blame
The way this loss happened seemed to stifle the Fickle Finger of Blame that had been spinning in different directions all series but mostly pointed at:
- Brian Cashman (for not getting another Elite starting pitcher),
- Aaron Boone (for overusing his bullpen),
- Edwin Encarnacion (who got the nod to play over the machine gun bats of Clint Frazier, Mike Ford, and Luke Voit — who were not on the ALCS roster),
- Giancarlo Stanton (injured in the series and all year, and when he did play in Game 5 was 0-3 with 2 strikeouts),
- Didi Gregorius (swinging at 1st pitches),
- Gary Sanchez (whiffing at bad pitches all series and allowing passed balls), and
- the home plate umpires.
Now, amazingly — did it point to…. Aaron Judge? Altuve had done his job — risen to the occasion. Judge was great in this series, especially defensively. And he got many singles and walks. He was 1 for 4 with a walk in this game. But the big home run ball wasn’t there; he did Not nail down our claim to him being the Face of Baseball. Altuve stole the show.
The Real Culprit
The real culprit is the fact that there are 30 teams, and 10 teams make the playoffs, so the odds of any team winning are essentially 10-1 — or 8-1 if you don’t have to play the wild card. Any good team can beat any great team in a short series in baseball — so much depends on how your pitchers do, who is healthy & who’s not, how the ball bounces, etc — hundreds of variables.
10-1 odds mean you could make the playoffs every year for 25 years and not win the World Series, then win 3 in 5 years and you’re right on schedule. As Brian Cashman has said, the goal of a GM is to get the team into the playoffs, and “roll the dice.”
Unfortunately at some point your fan base will think you have a team of chokers. Like Atlanta did when they made the playoffs 12 straight years in the 1990’s/2000’s and only won 1 title — and fans stopped going to games.
That’s baseball, Suzyn.
It Wasn’t Their Fault — Yanks Had Great Year
- It wasn’t Aaron Judge‘s fault at all — he played like Superman in this playoffs.
- And it wasn’t Brian Cashman’s fault — his starting pitchers had done their job — James Paxton ended up being a terrific pickup; Masahiro Tanaka is a reliable playoff ace; Luis Severino did his job in his starts; J.A. Happ pitched great in relief; and don’t forget we lost Domingo German and his 18-4 record due to matters outside baseball.
- Aaron Boone — he did a Great job this year to get the Yanks to the playoffs.
- Didi hit that big home run against Minnesota and played terrific D in this series.
- Sanchez did some nice things in the final games of the ALCS (see below).
- Encarnacion and Giancarlo Stanton? We can have separate articles on their play. Rumor has it Stanton did not stick around in the clubhouse for the post game interviews after this game.
- The Umpires? Maybe it was all the umpire’s fault.
This Final Game
The Yanks got off to a REALLY BAD start when Chad Green allowed a 3-run homer in the 1st to Yuli Gurriel. J.A. Happ came in and quickly got into a groove — pitching 2 shutout innings allowing only a walk. Meanwhile, Gary Sanchez lined an RBI single to center in the 2nd to make it 3-1 and get the Yanks back into it.
Gio Urshela homered in the 4th and it was 3-2 Houston.
Tommy Kahnle came in for the 6th. Kahnle had just pitched the night before, and he looked over used here — allowing a walk to Jose Altuve, a line single to right by Michael Brantley, and then an RBI ground out by Alex Bregman.
2nd Guessing Boone
Happ was in a groove — so it was questionable why he was pulled after only 2 innings. We’ve seen him in September pitch shutout ball through 6 innings when he was in a groove. For that matter it was questionable why he didn’t start the game — Chad Green looked iffy his last time out, allowing a hit and then a homer to Carlos Correa in the game 4 debacle. Cessa could have come in after Happ got the Yanks to the 6th. The Happ/Cessa combo could have gotten the Yanks into the late innings. Boone going to bullpen so much opened up the probability (see odds above) he’d pick a guy having a bad night — like he did with Kahnle.
Down 4-2 Boone brought in Adam Ottavino to the protest of Yankee Twitter — yet Ottavino, who had been ripped repeatedly in this series, pitched a 1-2-3 7th inning.
The Game Winner & Altuve’s Small Strike Zone
Aroldis Chapman had gotten the first 2 outs of the 9th, after DJ LeMahieu‘s miracle 2-run homer to tie the game in the top of the 9th, but walked George Springer and couldn’t get strikes against Jose Altuve‘s strike zone which is so small. So he threw a slider to get a strike on a 3-1 pitch. Boom. The walkoff home run.
Gio Urshela made several terrific defensive plays at 3rd base in this game. The Yanks appear to have a 3rd baseman for their future. His Defense throughout the playoffs was Graig Nettles-like spectacular, matching under pressure what he had done during the regular season. And Urshela hit too. He was 3-3 with a walk and the homer in this game, and finished the series with a .238 average.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) October 20, 2019
Aaron Hicks was 0-4 in this game but was terrific in this series — so many tough at bats and big hits.
Gary Sanchez — you don’t know what to say. As bad as he looked at the plate throughout the series, he came up with a big homerun in Game 4 and got a big RBI single and a walk in this one. He is a dangerous batter, from a pitcher’s perspective, but must figure a way to start hitting the ball to the opposite field as he did as a rookie.