Yankees End New York Baseball Season With Thud Against Houston Astros

Two weeks ago, what was a fascinating season for the Mets came crashing down in an array of pitches they could not hit against Joe Musgrove in a loss to the San Diego Padres, who enjoyed their postgame celebration immensely.

While two weeks is a short period in the context of time, in this year’s postseason it might seem like ancient history, especially since at the time Starling Marte grounded out to Manny Machado the biggest news for the Yankees was Aroldis Chapman being left off the ALDS roster for missing a workout.

Two weeks later, New York baseball officially became closed for business in terms of games. The Yankees seemingly running on fumes while getting through a postseason without a regular leadoff hitter, a regular shortstop and uncertainty about the closer, made a nine-game playoff run that seemed headed for another loss to the Astros and even with the presence of injured hitters DJ LeMahieu and Andrew Benintendi probably gets them to lose the series in five or six games.

Officially the World Series dream ended at 12:08 am on Monday when Aaron Judge provided the final swing of a season that seemed headed for bigger things at the All-Star break and not a group who just got swept. While the popular belief was the Astros would beat the Yankees, the sweep was certainly unexpected at least until they lost Game 3 on Saturday.

When Judge’s 72.8 mph grounded meekly headed into Houston Astros closer Ryan Pressly’s glove, the Astros did the usual celebration, the team photo and then did the customary booze-filled celebration that featured dancing with some brooms to highlight the sweep that despite three close games was significantly most dominant than it appeared.

The Astros celebrated an impressive run of reaching a fourth World Series in six seasons, similar to how the Yankees did it with five pennants in six seasons from 1996 to 2001. While the Astros outlasted the Yankees for a tainted seven-game ALCS win in 2017 and ended the 2019 ALCS with a Jose Altuve two-run homer off Chapman in Game 6, the third part of the trilogy may have been the most impressive feat.

The Astros joined the 1963 Los Angeles Dodgers, the 1976 Cincinnati Reds and 2012 Detroit Tigers as the fourth team to sweep a best-of-seven from the Yankees. They joined the Reds as the second team to complete the sweep in New York and did so in a series that had all sorts of inevitable moments for the Astros.

“Anybody celebrates on that field, it’s not fun to watch,” Judge said after the Yankees were eliminated from a series at the current Yankee Stadium for the third time. (also 2011 ALDS Detroit, 2018 ALDS Boston).

The first was Saturday when Judge cut in front of Harrison Bader on a Christian Vazquez flyball, resulting in an error. Two pitches later, inevitably struck when Gerrit Cole allowed a two-run homer to Chas McCormick and four innings later it struck again when the bases loaded in the sixth and the Astros added three runs.

The next instance came Sunday night at 11:18 pm.

After Altuve beat out an infield single, mostly because first baseman Anthony Rizzo was shifted closer to second base, Jeremy Pena hit soft grounder to Gleyber Torres. Torres cleanly fielded the ball and seemed poised to get at least the force at second but his backhanded toss eluded shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa into left field.

“Normally with this team, whenever the other team gives us a chance and they make a mistake we capitalize and it showed,” Trey Mancini said he as celebrated his first trip to the World Series two years after recovering from Stage 3 colon cancer.

There was the opening for the Astros and they quickly kicked the door down, similar to how the Yankees did it during their dynasty era. And it actually took one pitch when Yordan Alvarez poked an RBI single into right field. Then five pitches after Alvarez’s smooth single, Alex Bregman lined a single to right and it seemed the countdown was on as a matter of time when the Yankees would see their season end.

“They beat us in every facet,” Cole said. “I watched the series and I didn’t really see an area where we played better than them.”

Even though it was a one-run game, the end was a matter of time. When the New York baseball season ended after the two teams combined for 204 wins in the regular season and postseason, there was more an air of uncertainty with the Yankees.

While the Mets know Buck Showalter will be back managing and going off tangents in pregame press conferences, they do not know if Jacob deGrom will return once he opts out of his contract and do not know if star closer Edwin Diaz returns.

The Yankee murkiness may involve manager Aaron Boone, who got outmatched by Terry Francona at times in the ALDS and by Dusty Baker for the 13 hours, 49 minutes these four games lasted.

It was a long fall for the New York teams from two months ago when the four-game Subway Series resulted in two pulsating Yankee victories highlighted by Judge’s 47th and 48th homers.

“Definitely had the feeling early on in this season that it was going to be one of those magical years,” said Jameson Taillon, who was slated to start Game 5 if the Yankees extended the series. “It just didn’t happen.”

The Yankees were able to last two weeks later than the Mets because they avoided the scenario of playing a best-of-three by winning 20 of 29 games to lock down the AL East. Their late-season flourish came after a summer swoon enabled the Astros to zoom past them in the race for homefield advantage in case the teams met for part three of the ALCS.

By Aug. 11, the Astros officially went past the Yankees and the lead kept increasing while worries about actually blowing a 15 1/2 game division lead persisted.

Eventually the Yankees got the division title done, but there was a sense they were moderately better than last year’s tedious 92-win group, whose postseason lasted for a little over three hours in a dispiriting 6-2 loss at Boston in the wild-card game.

Then came the ALCS where the Astros were more dominant than the 2012 Tigers, who needed 15 hours, 19 minutes to sweep a series where they never trailed.

“It’s an awful day, an awful ending,’’ Boone said. “It stings. It hurts. The ending, as I’ve said before, is cruel.”

It was similar words Whitey Herzog may have spoken in 1976 when Chris Chambliss ended Kansas City Royals’ season with a three-run homer, in 1977 when Freddie Patek hit into a double play and shortly after Roy White hit a tiebreaking homer in 1978.

Those represented the straight times the Royals lost to the Yankees in the ALCS before breaking through in 1980. Now the Yankees know how those Royals felt and it will be a while before their next opportunity to change the narrative with the Astros occurs.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/larryfleisher/2022/10/24/yankees-end-new-york-baseball-season-with-thud-against-houston-astros/