Astros 4, Yankees 0: Game Seven loss sends Yankees home for the winter

All great things must come to an end. The incredibly fun and better than pretty much everyone expected 2017 Yankees season came to a close Saturday night, with a 4-0 loss to the Astros in Game Seven of the ALCS. Houston will take on the Dodgers in the World Series. The Yankees are heading home. You can either call this season a failure or be happy you got to enjoy the ride. I know which one I’m doing. Still love this team, you guys.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Strugglin’ Sabathia
It was clear in the second inning CC Sabathia was not especially sharp in Game Seven. The only reason it wasn’t clear in the first inning was three quick outs by the Astros. George Springer led the inning off with a single, then three first pitch weak ground ball outs followed.

The second inning was ominous. Sabathia fell behind in the count 2-0 on Yulieski Gurriel, but survived with a line drive out. Sabathia got ahead in the count 0-2 on Evan Gattis, but couldn’t finish him off and needed a hard-hit grounder for an out. Brian McCann then drew a four-pitch walk, Marwin Gonzalez dunked a single to center on the sixth pitch of his at-bat, and Josh Reddick popped up to end the threat. Bad signs abound.

Sabathia faced five batters in the third inning and only one saw a first pitch strike. There was one 2-0 count and one 3-1 count mixed in there, as well as another walk and an infield single. Sabathia looked so shaky — he had nothing to put hitters away with, it was all guts and guile — that I thought it was probably best to pull him after three innings. It felt like only a matter of time until the Astros broke through.

Instead, Sabathia went out for the fourth, got ahead on Gattis 0-2, then couldn’t put him away. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat Gattis cranked a hanging slider out to left field for a solo home run and a 1-0 Astros lead. Sabathia then walked McCann on five pitches, and gave up Reddick’s first hit of the ALCS. That was finally the end of his night. Tommy Kahnle escaped the inning with a first pitch double play.

Sabathia’s final line: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 0 K on 65 pitches. Yikes. He generated only three swings and misses, and only nine of 18 batters faced saw a first pitch strike. Sabathia doesn’t need to be perfect to succeed, he still has enough movement to get away with mistakes, but only when he’s ahead in the count. Falling behind is a recipe for disaster. All things considered, the Yankees were lucky he allowed just the one run in Game Seven.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Kahnle Finally Melts Down
Kahnle’s emergence as a dominant bullpen force this postseason is a big reason the Yankees got to within one game of the World Series. He finally had a hiccup in Game Seven, and at exactly the wrong time. Jose Altuve took Kahnle deep in the fifth inning — opposite field! — for a 2-0 lead, then a first pitch single and a seven-pitch single put the Astros back in business. Kahnle hung a changeup to McCann, who pounded it to right field for a two-run double and a 4-0 lead. Barf.

The numbers on Kahnle: 1.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 1 K. That’s after scattering two hits and two walks in his first ten postseason innings. The more important numbers: 16 changeups among 24 pitches, and an average fastball velocity of 96.2 mph. His regular season average was 98.1 mph. That much missing velocity and a boatload of changeups suggests Kahnle was running on fumes and trying to get outs any way he could. It happens.

Adam Warren and David Robertson resorted order and held the Astros to one hit in 3.1 innings combined. Robertson struck out three in two scoreless innings, and looked like David Robertson. After the game Joe Girardi inadvertently admitted Robertson has been sick, which might explain his last few rough outings. I’m a bit surprised Aroldis Chapman did not pitch, though I guess Girardi wanted to make sure he maxed out Robertson in a Game Seven situation before going to Chapman.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Not Enough Offense
The No. 1 reason the Yankees lose the ALCS: they scored three runs total in four games in hitter friendly Minute Maid Park. Yes, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander started three of those four games, but still. That little offense on the road is not going to cut it, even as well as the Yankees pitched in the series overall. The Yankees were shut out in Game Seven, which I guess is a fitting end to the series.

Charlie Morton mowed the Yankees down for five innings with stunning efficiency. His pitch count by inning: 10, 6, 12, 8, 18. Morton was pounding the strike zone. When the Yankees jumped on a first pitch fastball, they did nothing with it. When they took the first pitch and tried to work a long at-bat, Morton got head in the count quickly. They had no answer either way. Damned if you swing, damned if you don’t.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch pulled Morton after five innings and 54 pitches because his control was starting to deteriorate, and because his numbers going through the lineup a third time are pretty terrible. The Yankees had their best chance to score in the fifth inning, which Greg Bird led off with a double. He moved to third on a wild pitch with one out, and Todd Frazier could’ve tied the game 1-1 with a fly ball. Instead, this happened:

Three things. One, that was a heck of a play by Alex Bregman. Real good throw home too. Two, wow did McCann take a spiking to make that play. Bird spiked him (accidentally, I assume) right in the forearm. That couldn’t have felt good. And three, man is Bird slow. He’s sooo slow. He also slid right into the tag instead of around it, which is exactly what happened when he was thrown out at the plate in Game One. Bird is a great hitter. But he is slow as hell and not the best slider in the world.

That was the only real chance the Yankees had to score in Game Seven. Bird was the only Yankee to make it as far as third base. The Yankees scattered one single and one walk in the final four innings, during which Lance McCullers Jr. completely mowed them down with his curveball. Frazier worked a leadoff walk in the eighth, and McCullers settled down to retire the final six batters by thrown 24 (!) straight curveballs. Oy vey. The final out of the season: Bird flying out to Springer in center.

Leftovers
For the third time this postseason, Aaron Judge made a ridiculous leaping catch at the wall. And it’ll probably be completely forgotten. He took a home run away from Francisco Lindor in the ALDS, robbed Gurriel of extra bases earlier in the ALCS, then robbed Gurriel of extra bases again in Game Seven. To the action footage:

I’m not sure whether that ball would’ve gone out, but I do know that was a fantastic catch. Judge’s best of the season. I really hope he gets more credit for his defense going forward. We all see the 50-something home runs and light tower power. But Judge is a well-rounded ballplayer who saves runs defense and runs the bases well. I feel like not enough people know that.

The Yankees had three hits total in Game Seven. The double by Bird and singled by Brett Gardner and Gary Sanchez. Hicks and Frazier drew walks. That’s all the baserunners. Didi Gregorius had maybe his worst game as a Yankee, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts on 14 total pitches, two over the minimum. The Yankees went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position and I’m surprised they had that many at-bats in those situations.

This was only the fifth time in history the home team won every game in a best-of-seven series. It happened in the 1987 World Series (Twins vs. Cardinals), 1991 World Series (Twins vs. Braves), 2001 World Series (Diamondbacks vs. Yankees), and 2004 NLCS (Cardinals vs. Astros). Losing Games One and Two by identical 2-1 scores stings. Those games were there for the taking.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and MLB.com for the video highlights. We have a Bullpen Workload page, not that it matters anymore. Here is the loss probability graph …


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The offseason. At least this one will be a few weeks shorter than the last few. The first orders of offseason business will be re-signing Brian Cashman and Girardi, or finding a Girardi replacement should he step away to spent time with his family. Once that happens, the Yankees can move forward with improving the 2018 Yankees.

Astros 7, Yankees 1: Yanks can’t solve Verlander, Astros force Game Seven

What, you didn’t think winning the pennant would be easy, did you? The Yankees and Astros are going to a Game Seven. Justin Verlander shut the Yankees down again in Game Six of the ALCS on Friday night, then Houston’s offense tacked on a bunch of insurance runs late to put the game out of reach. The final score: 7-1. And we will see you tomorrow night.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Still No Answer For Verlander
Five days ago Verlander manhandled the Yankees for nine innings, striking out 13 in his 124-pitch masterpiece. He wasn’t quite as good in Game Six, though he was obviously excellent, and the Yankees failed to capitalize on the few chances they had. That includes putting a man on base in each of the first three innings.

The sixth and seventh inning … that’s when the Yankees really had a chance to get back into the game. The Astros took a 3-0 lead into that sixth inning — more to come on that in a minute — and, for the first time basically ever, Verlander appeared to be tiring. Chase Headley started the sixth with a single, then Didi Gregorius reached with a two-out single to bring the tying run to the plate.

The batter: Gary Sanchez. The count: 3-0: The result: a weak little check swing tapper for the inning-ending ground out. Yuck. I was totally cool with giving Sanchez the green light. There were two outs in the inning and Verlander had roughed up Greg Bird pretty good in the series up to that point. Sanchez is very capable of tying the game with one swing. Then Verlander threw him a 3-0 breaking ball and Gary had no idea what to do with it. He was frozen in his tracks expecting a heater. It was ugly.

In the seventh, Verlander gifted the Yankees two free leadoff baserunners. Bird drew a walk and Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch — how the home plate umpire missed it, I have no idea, the Yankees had to ask for a review — which set the Yankees up. Verlander was clearly running on fumes. It was made even more clear when he fell behind in the count 3-0 on Aaron Hicks. Hicks took the 3-0 pitch for a strike (duh), then got jobbed on the 3-1 pitch. Look at this:

aaron-hicks-3-1-pitchDude. That call completely changed the game. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Yankees go on to win the game, but it changes everything. That should have been ball four to load the bases with no outs. Instead, it was called a strike to run the count full. Hicks battled for ten pitches before striking out on a wicked breaking ball. That orange dot in the lower right corner of the strike zone? That was the finish pitch. How the hell are you supposed to hit — or even foul off — a breaking ball down-and-in like that.

Hicks struck out, but the rally was not dead. Todd Frazier came up next and absolutely clobbered a fastball to center field. Off the bat, I thought it was gone. I though the game was tied. Frazier hit it to the wrong part of the park through, literally the deepest part in left-center, and George Springer made a fantastic leaping catch at the wall to take away extra bases. If Frazier gets the bat to the ball a nanosecond sooner, he pulls it a bit and it’s over the wall. Baseball can be a real jerk sometimes. Headley followed with a ground out to end the threat.

The first out of the inning came after Hicks should’ve walked on the 3-1 count. The second out came on the Yankees’ hardest hit ball of the night. Sometimes you get the breaks, sometimes you don’t. Aaron Judge did hit a very long solo home run in the eighth to get the Yankees to within 3-1, then they made Ken Giles work in the ninth with a 7-1 lead, and that’s about it for the offense. Those sixth and seventh innings, man. That was the game right there.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Severino Hits A Wall
For the first four innings of Game Six, Luis Severino traded zeroes with Verlander and looked good and strong. He was getting the anxious Astros to chase fastballs — and sliders, at that — up the zone. Severino looked real good. Then he hit a wall in the fifth inning, and things came crashing down. The inning started with walks to the No. 6 and 8 hitters and continued when Severino couldn’t put Brian McCann away in an 0-2 count.

McCann, who was 0-for-postseason up to that point, worked the count back 2-2, then pounced on an outside fastball that was a little too up in the zone for a ground-rule double to right field. The Yankees got lucky, or so it seemed. The ball hopping over the wall forced Evan Gattis to stop at third. Severino then issued his third walk of the inning to load the bases with one out. He was missing his spots by a mile and simply seemed to run out of gas.

I thought Severino should’ve been out of the game at that point. Joe Girardi opted to leave him in to face Josh Reddick, who has been terrible all series, and sure enough he popped out for the second out. Severino had a chance to escape the jam with only one run allowed. Then he hung the hell out of a first pitch slider to Altuve. Look where Sanchez set up and where the pitch ended up:

jose-altuve-luis-severino

Oy vey. That was a hanger and a half. It was also the final pitch Severino threw. By time Chad Green came in, it was too little, too late. Altuve’s two-run single gave the Astros a 3-0 lead. Like I said, I thought Severino should’ve been out after walking Springer. I definitely didn’t want him facing Altuve for the third time with his control vanishing. That was asking for trouble, and the Yankees got it. Severino’s final line: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K. Good to bad in a heartbeat.

Battered Bullpen
Green gave the offense a chance to get back in the game. He hucked 2.1 scoreless innings and threw 38 pitches, and that is a-okay with me. Down three runs against Houston’s bullpen is still a winnable game as far as I’m concerned. Green never pitches back-to-back days anyway, so once he’s in the game, might as well max him out. Girardi did that and Judge’s solo homer got the Yankees to within 3-1 in the eighth. Progress!

The wheels came off in the bottom of the eighth. David Robertson entered and again, I thought it was the right move. Hold them right there because two runs is hardly insurmountable. Homer, double, single, double. Ouch. Robertson faced four batters and retired zero. The Altuve solo homer came on a pitch down on the zone, one of those “how the hell did he hit that?” pitches. Everything else was pretty poorly located. Robertson looks worn down, which tends to happen when you throw eleven high-stress innings in eleven postseason games.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Dellin Betances mopped up the rest of the eighth and allowed a sac fly to give the Astros a 7-1 lead. I guess the good news is Betances looked serviceable? Not serviceable enough that I’d trust him with a small lead in Game Seven, but perhaps serviceable enough to keep him on the World Series roster should the Yankees advance. Anyway, four batters faces for Robertson, four hits allowed, four runs allowed. That’ll put a dent in the postseason ERA.

Leftovers
The Yankees had seven hits even though it doesn’t really feel like it. Headley had two — he’s now 7-for-11 in the last four games — while Brett Gardner, Judge, Gregorius, Sanchez, and Castro had one each. Bird and Hicks drew walks. Everyone in the starting lineup reached base at least once except Frazier, who had the team’s hardest hit ball of the night. Well, second hardest after the Judge homer. The Yankees went 1-for-15 with men on base. There’s yer ballgame.

That’s about it, right? Not much else to cover in this one. Shake it off and go get ’em in Game Seven.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and MLB.com has the video highlights. We have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
With the loss, the Yankees will once again play a win or go home game this postseason. They’re 4-0 in those already this year. The Yankees and Astros will get together for Game Seven of the ALCS on Saturday night. CC Sabathia and Charlie Morton are the scheduled starters.

Yankees 5, Astros 0: Tanaka, Judge, and Sanchez carry Yanks to 3-2 lead in ALCS

The 2017 New York Baseball Yankees are one win away from going to the World Series. What a time to be alive. The Yankees finally — finally! — solved Dallas Keuchel in ALCS Game Five on Wednesday night, en route to a 5-0 win and a 3-2 series lead. Hell of a rebuilding year, eh?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The ‘Hiro We Need, Not The ‘Hiro We Deserve
So does everyone still want Masahiro Tanaka to opt-out of his contract after the season, or no? Yeah, I thought so. Tanaka made his third start of the postseason Wednesday night and it was another gem, a seven-shutout inning masterpiece against a lineup that has looked more punch-and-Judy than power-and-contact this series.

Only twice during Game Five did Tanaka face a real jam. Yulieski Gurriel, who is pretty much the Astro hitting the ball hard right now, roped a double to left field to start the second inning. Three ground outs later, including one to Starlin Castro with the infield in and one to Tanaka himself, put an end to that threat. That the Yankees had the infield in in the second inning tells you important this game was.

Then, in the fifth, a single by No. 8 hitter Marwin Gonzalez and a walk to No. 9 hitter Brian McCann put two men on base for the Astros with one out. Trouble was brewing and Tommy Kahnle started warming up in the bullpen. Eight pitches later, the inning was over. Tanaka struck out George Springer and Josh Reddick on four pitches each. Only three of those eight pitches were no-doubt strikes. He got Springer and Reddick to chase out of the zone, which Tanaka does better than anyone.

Game Five started when Springer lifted a fly ball to right field that carried and carried and carried to the wall before settling into Aaron Judge‘s glove. I thought it was a routine fly ball off the bat, but it very nearly went out. That was ominous. From that point on though, Tanaka faced 25 batters and only seven hit the ball out of the infield. His seven innings of no effs given pitching featured eight strikeouts and ten ground ball outs. Three hits and one walk, scattered.

Through three postseason starts Tanaka has allowed two runs on ten hits and three walks in 20 innings. He’s struck out 18. That includes his seven shutout innings in Game Three of the ALDS — an elimination game, of course — and two excellent starts against the Astros in the ALCS, a lineup that was baseball’s most fearsome in the regular season given how much power and contact ability they have. Tanaka is not impressed, however. The man is stone cold killer on the mound.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Beat Up Dallas Before Going To Houston
Dallas Keuchel has earned the Yankees Killerâ„¢ tag throughout his career. He went into Game Five with a 1.09 ERA in 57.2 career innings against the Yankees in the regular season and postseason. That includes six shutout innings (on short rest!) in the 2015 Wild Card Game and seven shutout innings in Game One of the ALCS last week. Keuchel has crushed the Yankees. No doubt about that.

And that’s why it felt so damn good to watch the Yankees crush Keuchel in Game Five. He didn’t make it out of the fifth! Never before had he thrown fewer than six innings against the Yankees. Only once before had he thrown fewer than seven innings. The Yankees got on the board quick, with a two-out run in the second inning. Castro banged a double to left-center and Greg Bird hooked a single to right field for a 1-0 lead. Perfect.

One inning later, the suddenly unstoppable Chase Headley led off with a single, then was erased on Brett Gardner‘s fielder’s choice. That turned out to be significant though, because now the Yankees had a faster runner at first base. Judge then brought Gardner home with a rocket double down the left field line and into the corner. See? Faster runner scores from first. Judge is really starting to feel it huh? It’s hard to believe, but at this point, he has to be considered one of the front-runners for the ALCS MVP award.

Anyway, this game turned in the fifth. Turned into the best way to put it. The Yankees went into the inning with a 2-0 lead and that’s great, but it didn’t feel particularly safe. They scored two big insurance runs in that inning and chased Keuchel from the game, giving the offense a few cracks at the bullpen. And it all started with an error. Headley hit a soft grounder to third and Gurriel missed Alex Bregman’s throw at first, allowing Chase to get to second. Hooray.

With two outs and Headley on second, Judge worked a walk in which is seemed like Keuchel was going to give him nothing to hit. If he was willing to chase out of the zone, great. But he wasn’t getting anything in the zone. Judge took the walk, and Gary Sanchez took a hanging slider for a ride to left field for a run-scoring single. Sir Didi Gregorius then found a hole up the middle with a ground ball single to score Judge and give the Yankees a 4-0 lead.

The Didi single ended Keuchel’s night. His final line: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 8 K on 86 pitches. Satisfying. Very satisfying. What was the difference between Game One and Game Five? The Yankees refused to chase down below the strike zone. Check it out:

yankees-vs-dallas-keuchel

I count eight strikeouts and three ground ball outs on pitches below the strike zone in Game One. In Game Five, I count three strikeouts and nothing else. No ground balls. The Yankees made Keuchel get the ball up, which is baseball speak for don’t give him any gifts by chasing down. If he wanted a swing, he’d have to get the ball up in the zone. The Yankees laid off those pitches down and it made all the difference in Game Five.

Leftovers
Further evidence Sanchez is getting locked in: he clocked a solo home run off Brad Peacock in the seventh inning for a 5-0 lead. Gary went 1-for-3 with the go-ahead double in Game Four and 2-for-4 with the run-scoring single and solo homer in Game Five. He’s driven in five of the team’s eleven runs the last two games. Judge and Sanchez are really starting to do damage, folks. That sure is exciting.

Shout out to Kahnle for two stress-free innings to close out the game. He did allow a ninth inning double to Carlos Correa, which had Aroldis Chapman stirring in the bullpen, but there was no drama after that. Seven up, six down on 20 pitches for Kahnle in Game Five. He’s scattered two hits and two walks in ten scoreless innings this postseason. Sure, why not? David Robertson and Chapman will go into Game Six having had two straight days off. Huge.

The DH spot lives! Headley went 3-for-4 and is 5-for-7 over the last three games. Thank goodness for that. The Designated Out-Makers act was no fun. Gregorius had two hits as well. The Astros? They had four hits in the game. The Yankees have held them to nine runs and 22 hits in five games. That’ll work.

Bird went 1-for-2 with two walks in Game Five and is now 4-for-13 (.308) with seven walks and six strikeouts in the series. That’s a .308/.550/.615 line. Aaron Judge, have you been impressed by Bird’s big series? “I’m not impressed. That’s Greg Bird,” said Judge after the game. Hell yeah it is.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and MLB.com for the video highlights. We have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
A chance to clinch the American League pennant. That’s what’s up next. The ALCS is heading back to Houston for Game Six. A win sends the Yankees to the World Series. A loss means they’ll play a Game Seven. Thursday is an off-day, then Justin Verlander and Luis Severino will be on the mound for Game Six on Friday night. Fun fun fun.

Yankees 6, Astros 4: Judge and Sanchez lead Yanks to come-from-behind win in Game Four

You didn’t doubt the Fighting Spirit, did you? The October ghosts have returned to Yankees baseball. I’ve missed them. The Yankees mounted a remarkable comeback in Game Four of the ALCS on Tuesday night to even the series at 2-2. The final score: 6-4. This team, man. I never want this to end.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Welcome To October In The Bronx, Kids
We have to start at the end with this game. We just have to. The Yankees were down 4-0 after six and a half innings — we’ll get to that in a bit — and Lance McCullers Jr. was razor sharp. He held the Yankees to one hit, a bloop single, through six innings. The Yankees were completely overmatched by that mid-80s curveball and mid-90s fastball. Just about everything they hit was on the ground. McCullers mowed them down.

It was until the seventh inning, with his 81st and final pitch, that McCullers made his first real mistake. He hung a first pitch curveball to Aaron Judge, and Aaron Judge did what Aaron Judge does to hanging curveballs. Long dinger into Monument Park. His previous two postseason homers were pulled to left and only a row or two back. This was a true Aaron Judge shot. Gone off the bat, the whole nine. We hadn’t seen a swing like that since September.

The Judge home run got the fans back into the game. They’d been silenced by McCullers and the dread of falling behind in the series 3-1 with Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander looming. The Judge home run energized the crowd. Then, when Didi Gregorius followed with a triple into the left-center field gap, the ballpark was back to life. Everyone was on their feet. Gary Sanchez plated Didi with a sac fly to cut the deficit to 4-2. Progress.

The eighth inning … that’s when the magic happened. The Yankees had one of their best offensive innings of the season that inning, and I don’t mean in terms of total runs scored. I’m just talking about quality at-bats, big hits, that sorta stuff. There’s a lot to go through here, so let’s recap with an annotated play-by-play.

yankees-astros-play-by-play(1) So Todd Frazier is involved in pretty much every rally these days, right? Right. That dude is in the middle of everything. I know he’s a flawed hitter because of his low average and all the pop-ups, but man, the big spot just seems to find that dude, and so far this postseason, he’s come up pretty damn big. In the eighth inning, the Yankees needed him to be a leadoff hitter, and he hooked a sinker into left field for a leadoff single. Just like that, the tying run was at the plate.

(2) Chase. Dude. Chase Headley pinch-hit for Austin Romine, swung through two Joe Musgrove fastballs for a quick two-strike count, then stroked a double into the left-center field gap. See? I told you the hits would start to fall as long as Headley keeps making quality contact. On this double, Headley slipped on the first base bag and stumbled between first and second. He was toast. The Astros had him. Carlos Correa, the relay man, took a little too long to make a throwing decision, allowing Headley to recover and make it to second base safely. It was one of those “no no no yes yes yes!” plays. Everything was going wrong, yet it all worked out. Replay confirmed Headley was safe. The tying run was in scoring position with no outs and the lineup was about to turn over.

(3) I know a run-scoring ground out is boring as hell, but during a series in which contact has been hard to come by, Brett Gardner getting that run in felt big. Ken Giles has nasty, nasty stuff, and he got ahead in the count 1-2 on Gardner. Brett was in battle mode, and he was able to pull a slider to second base to score the run and advance Headley to third. Now the deficit was only 4-3, and a fly ball would’ve tied the game.

(4) For the first time in a while, Aaron Judge had an Aaron Judge at-bat. Giles has a wicked slider and Judge spit on two of them down-and-away. He’s been chasing sliders off the plate since the start of the ALDS. Judge fouled off a fastball for a 2-2 count, and given his postseason to date, it was easy to fear the unproductive strikeout. I know I did. Instead, Giles left a slider up juuust enough, and Judge went down and hammered it off the left field wall to tie the game. To the action footage:

Man, what a moment. I thought it was gone off the bat — it certainly looked like a Judge homer off the bat — but a game-tying double off the wall works just as well. It was so great to see Judge take two sliders out of the zone, then go down to hammer the mistake slider for a game-changing hit. He’s been missing that pitch or taking it for strike three for a few games now. What a huge hit. One of the biggest of the season, hands down.

(5) Sometimes, you just need a little luck. The Gregorius single was a solidly hit ground ball that, more than anything, was well-placed. It was deep enough in the shortstop hole that Correa couldn’t reach it, and, even if it had, he wouldn’t have thrown out Gregorius. Judge was able to advance to third after freezing on the ground ball in front of him. Now the Yankees had the go-ahead run at third base with one out.

(6) Going into this eighth inning at-bat, Sanchez was riding an 0-for-18 slump that dated back to the ALDS. There were signs he was starting to snap out of it though. Last night he ripped a 98.1 mph line drive in his final at-bat that I thought was gone, but didn’t carry in the cold air. Gary’s at-bats have been progressing from ugly strikeout to weak contact to solid contact. It was progress. Giles started him with two sliders and hey, why not? I would’ve done the same thing. Sanchez can get antsy at times and chase out of the zone. Gary took both sliders for a 2-0 count, and, to my surprise, Giles gave him a 2-0 fastball. Didn’t expect that. It was 98.6 mph coming into and 113.1 mph going out.

Gregorius was running on the pitch but I’m sure he was going to score from first base anyway. What a rocket. What a huge hit. Sanchez had been fighting it all series. The Astros have pitched him really well. The Yankees aren’t going anywhere without Judge and Sanchez contributing. Judge had the home run and the game-tying double. When it was Sanchez’s turn, he doubled into the right-center field gap to give the Yankees a 6-4 lead. Shooting a 98.6 mph heater the other way. Beautiful. Just beautiful. I’ve never heard the new Yankee Stadium louder than it was at the moment.

(7) You know things are going well when Starlin Castro works a work. The Astros were on their third pitcher of the inning at this point, and the Castro walk loaded the bases. I was ready for Aaron Hicks to do the damn thing. Or at least hit a fly ball to get an insurance run in, you know? Luke Gregerson fed Hicksie a steady diet of sinkers, which is unusual. He’s an extreme slider guy. Hicks was down in the count 1-2 when he hit a weak tapper to first base, allowing Yulieski Gurriel to throw home for the force out. Blah. No more runs. But you know what? That’s okay. The Yankees had the lead.

Houston’s bullpen in Game Four: 2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 0 K on 54 pitches. Their bullpen had the second highest strikeout rate during the regular season, behind the Yankees. They faced 15 batters and struck out zero Tuesday. The Yankees put together some high-quality at-bats in the seventh and eighth innings, got the big hits, and got a little lucky as well (Headley’s stumble, most notably). At one point in the seventh inning, the Astros had a 94.2% chance to win the game. Then the Yankees went to work against their bullpen.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Sonny Gray-t
Get it? Sonny Gray-t, like Sonny Great? Yes? No? I might break that one out again. You are forewarned. Anyway, Sonny’s last few starts have not gone all that well, mostly because he couldn’t stop walking people. And while he walked only two batters in his five innings in Game Four, he was hardly precise. Gray battled through the first two innings before setting down for his final three frames.

Through five innings, Gray held the ‘Stros to one hit and one walk, and he recorded nine of his 12 ball-in-play outs on the ground. That works. With the game still scoreless in the sixth, Sonny walked George Springer on four pitches to start the inning, then threw a first pitch ball to Josh Reddick. And that was it. His afternoon was over. Joe Girardi went right to David Robertson, which warmed my heart. Scoreless game with the middle of the order coming up? Give me the best reliever regardless of inning.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. Reddick reached on a catcher interference — other teams are allowed to do that against the Yankees? rude — and Robertson walked Altuve to load the bases. Bases loaded with no outs without no balls in play. Walk, catcher interference, walk. Yuck. Robertson did strike out Correa for the first out, so that was cool, but then he hung the hell out of the curveball to Gurriel. Look where Romine wanted it and where Robertson threw it:

yulieski-gurriel-david-robertson

Romine set up down-and-away and Robertson left the pitch way up in the zone inside. Pretty impressive that Gurriel was able to keep that fair. A lot of times pulling a pitch like that equals a foul ball. Instead, the ball shot down the left field line and beyond the reach of a diving Frazier at third base. All three runners scored and Gurriel was thrown out after being caught in a rundown, though that didn’t mean much. The damage had been done.

Gray’s final line: 5 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K on 85 pitches. He labored a bit in the first two innings before finding a groove in the third. Gray had struck out four of the last seven me he faced heading into that sixth inning, so there was no real reason think he’d run into trouble that inning other than baseball being baseball. The Yankees were going to need a good start from Gray and they got it, as far as I’m concerned.

The Astros scored an insurance run in the seventh inning against Chad Green thanks in large part to a Castro error. He had two of them in Game Four, both pretty bad. Marwin Gonzalez looped a double into the gap, then scored when Brian McCann‘s grounder into the shift hopped up on Castro and he muffed it completely. McCann was safe and Gonzalez raced all the way around from second. Pretty terrible.

For real though, Green is the game’s unsung hero. That insurance run stunk, but, in the eighth inning, Green cut through the middle of Houston’s lineup to keep the Yankees to within 4-2. The Yankees managed to win a battle of the bullpen because their bullpen allowed only four runs. Go figure.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Leftovers
Judge had maybe the most complicated caught stealing in baseball history in the fourth inning. He drew a leadoff walk, then he didn’t pick up the ball on Sanchez’s one-out weak pop-up, and got doubled off first base. HowEVA, replay overturned the call and Judge was safe at first. HowEVA again, replay showed Judge did not retouch second base. D’oh. The Astros appealed, and rather than let them do it uncontested, Judge took off from first and basically tried to steal second. His only hope there was the throw from McCullers going into center field. Alas.

Tough game for Castro, who kinda sorta redeemed himself with that eighth inning walk. He went 0-for-3 with the walk and two he shoulda had it errors. Yuck. Also, Romine went 0-for-2 at the plate and saw four pitches. He also allowed a wild pitch — Sanchez gets killed for those, so it’s only fair Romine does as well — and committed the catcher interference. Sigh.

Two hits for Judge, Gregorius, and Frazier. One each for Sanchez and Headley. Greg Bird quietly drew three walks. Judge and Castro had walks as well. By the way, Judge is now hitting .308/.438/.846 in the ALCS. He might be series MVP if the Yankees win! Gotta love small sample size stats. The Yankees went 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position. That feels wrong. Whatever.

The Astros scored four runs in the game, but they only had three hits. The Yankees have held them to nine runs on 18 hits in four games so far. Too bad the series is only tied. The Gurriel double felt like it might open the floodgates, though Green shut that down. Aroldis Chapman gave us a nice and easy 1-2-3 ninth inning. Thank goodness for that.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and MLB.com for the video highlights. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page either. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Now that the series is back even, it means a) this is now a best-of-three, and b) the Yankees are going back to Houston for at least one more game. But first, the Yankees and Astros will play Game Five on Wednesday afternoon. That’s another 5pm ET start. Dallas Keuchel and Masahiro Tanaka are the scheduled starting pitchers.

Yankees 8, Astros 1: Judge breaks out, Sabathia shuts down Astros in Game Three

Alright alright alright. Now we have a series. After getting stifled by Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander in Games One and Two of the ALCS, the Yankees bounced back with a big 8-1 win in Game Three on Monday night. Good hitting, good pitching, good defense. This one had it all and the Yankees needed every bit of it. The Astros still lead the best-of-seven series 2-1.

Love this team. (Abbie Parr/Getty)
Love this team. (Abbie Parr/Getty)

Three Early Runs
With one swing of the bat, the Yankees scored more runs in the second inning of Game Three than they did in Games One and Two combined. Man did that Todd Frazier home run feel good. The rally started with two outs too. Line out by Gary Sanchez and strikeout by Greg Bird. It looked like another quick 1-2-3 inning for an offense that hadn’t done much in the series up to that point.

Things turned when Starlin Castro beat out an infield single and the pretty much unstoppable Aaron Hicks looped a single to shallow left field. Hicks has been so good this postseason. On both sides of the ball. Frazier’s three-run home run was one of those home runs that left you wondering how the hell it was a home run. Look at the point of contact:

todd-frazier

What the what. First of all, that’s a 95 mph fastball dotting the down-and-away corner perfectly. A great pitch, that was. Somehow Frazier reached out and one-armed the ball into the short porch for a three-run home run. A Yankee Stadium cheapie? Yeah, it sure looked like it. But the ball left his bat at 100.5 mph, so Frazier made great contact. And as he rounded first base, he pumped his fist has hard as I’ve ever seen a player pump his fist on a homer. Todd was pumped the hell up.

The Judge Game
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Aaron Judge has had a brutal postseason to date. He went into Game Four with a 4-for-31 (.129) line and 19 strikeouts — 19 strikeouts! — in eight postseason games. And, in the first inning, Judge struck out again. On three pitches! That wasn’t good.

Fortunately, things started to turn after that. Judge worked a one-out walk in the third inning, and while it didn’t lead to a run, he finally got a favorable call on a pitch at the knees. He’s been getting hose on those all series. All season, really. The call went in his favor and, if nothing else, maybe that boosted his confidence a bit.

Also a confidence boost: robbing Yulieski Gurriel of extra bases in the fourth inning. Judge made a tremendous leaping catch — it wouldn’t have been a home run, but it definitely would’ve gone for a double without the catch — and crashed hard into the wall with his left shoulder, the shoulder he’s been icing basically the entire second half. Great catch! But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried about the shoulder.

Judge showed the shoulder was fine in the next half-inning. He somehow pulled his hands in and yanked a 93 mph Will Harris fastball to left field for a big three-run home run that turned a too close for comfort 5-0 lead into an okay you gave unclench now 8-0 lead. It was a very similar pitch to the high fastball he hit for a two-run double against Trevor Bauer in ALCS Game Four.

That five-run fourth inning rally was set up Cameron Maybin forgetting how to play defense. For whatever reason, he pulled up in left field and let Bird’s bloop dunk in for a ground-rule double. I have no idea. Not complaining though. Bird moved to third on Hicks’ fly ball to the warning track, then scored when Chase Headley perfectly placed a weak ground ball back up the middle. First DH hit of the postseason!

Headley’s two-out infield single gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead. It became 5-0 after Brett Gardner was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Harris spiked a curveball that bounced away from Evan Gattis for a wild pitch. Not the best effort by Gattis to catch that ball. He just kinda watched it hit his mitt and did nothing else. Considering Judge’s strikeout issues, getting a run on the wild pitch felt big. He was definitely a candidate for an inning-ending strikeout. Instead, dinger time.

But wait! That wasn’t all for Judge. In the next half-inning he made a tremendous diving catch in shallow right field to take away a bloop single. And! And he made another nice running catch on a pop-up near the foul line. In the span of three half-innings, Judge made two excellent catches in right field and crushing a home run. That is how you impact a damn baseball game. What a game for Judge.

I Love It When You Call Me Big Stoppa
No, he is no longer the pitcher he was in his prime, but damn does CC Sabathia know how to come through in big spots. He’s stopped losing streaks all season, and with Game Three a must-win for all intents and purposes, Sabathia went out shut the Astros down across six innings. Three singles, four walks, five strikeouts, no runs. With a big 8-0 lead, Joe Girardi let the big man air it out for 99 pitches.

The biggest moment of the game for Sabathia came in the top of third, immediately after Frazier’s homer. After two quick outs, Sabathia walked George Springer, gave up a single to left to Alex Bregman, and walked Jose Altuve to load the bases. For Carlos Correa, no less. That’s not good. Sabathia stuck to the game plan, busted Correa in on the hands with a cutter, and got him to pop-up harmlessly on the infield. Ex-friggin-hale.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Sabathia, who had the fifth highest soft contact rate and the sixth lowest hard contact rate in baseball this season, held the Astros to a 73.7 mph average exit velocity in Game Three. It was the lowest for any pitcher against the ‘Stros this season, according to James Smyth. In a way, Sabathia was the perfect pitcher to send out there against the Astros. They’re going to put the ball in play, but CC knows how to use their aggressiveness against them, and seemingly nothing he gives up is hard-hit.

Once upon a time, when the Yankees first signed Sabathia, there was a lot of ink spilled about his lack of postseason success. Now? Now he’s 37 years old and still slingin’ like a champ in the postseason. He’s the guy the Yankees want on the mound in a big game and I feel exactly the same way. There’s something to be said for not being overwhelmed by the moment and knowing how to pitch rather than overpower. Late career Sabathia is awfully fun.

Close It Out
I have zero complaints about Girardi’s bullpen usage in Game Three. With the 8-0 lead, he went to Adam Warren for the seventh and eighth innings, and it was only the third time Warren has seen game action since coming off the disabled list. Correa and Gurriel both his balls that I thought were gone off the bat in the eighth, but they just died in the cold night air. Two quick, scoreless innings for Warren.

Girardi went to Dellin Betances with the 8-0 lead because, well, if you’re not going use Dellin up 8-0, when will you? Bad Betances showed up and walked the first two — and only two — batters he faced. His pitch locations:

dellin-betances-pitch-location

Poor Dellin. Can’t help but feel terrible for the guy. His body language tells you his confidence is completely shot. How could it not be? The two walks ended the night Betances, and in came Tommy Kahnle to wrap things up. He allowed a single and walked in a run, which is mildly annoying, but whatever. It was 8-0. Altuve banged into a game-ending double play with the bases. Not very MVP like, if you ask me.

Leftovers
The Yankees had six hits in 3.2 innings against Charlie Morton, but don’t confuse that for crushing him. Frazier hit the home run, yes, but two of those six hits were infield singles — really three if you include Headley’s well-placed grounder against the shift — another was the Bird bloop double Maybin should’ve caught, and another was the Hicks flare single. Hey, I’ll take it. The Yankees hadn’t been getting those weak hits lately.

Everyone in the lineup reached base at least once except Sanchez, who crushed a fly ball in the eighth inning. Like Correa and Gurriel against Warren, I thought it was gone off the bat, but it just didn’t carry. Not a good night for fly balls. Gardner and Sanchez were the only starters without a hit. Gardner did get hit by a pitch to reach base. The Yankees went 3-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and MLB.com for the video highlights. Here is our Bullpen Workload page and here is the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Game Three win means there will be at least two more games at Yankee Stadium this season. The Yankees will look to even the series 2-2 in Game Four on Tuesday. That is a 5pm ET start, not an 8pm ET start. The Astros haven’t announced their starter yet, though I get the sense it’ll be Dallas Keuchel on short rest. We’ll see. The Astros are starting Lance McCullers Jr., surprisingly. Sonny Gray will be on the bump for the good guys.

Yankees 1, Astros 2: Correa’s walk off and Verlander’s gem sink the Yankees in Game Two

Um, yeah. Holy hell. What was that ending? Well, before that, the Yankee bats got completely owned by Justin Verlander for the entirety of nine innings. They did manage back-to-back doubles in the fourth to score a run but that was about it. After Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson put in a strong relief effort, the game unraveled in the ninth thanks to Jose Altuve’s extra-hustle and, uh, what Gary Sanchez did. Let’s not put the blame solely on Sanchez though. The lineup has not been… good. Not at all. Let’s recap this thing.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Starting pitching duel part deux

It’s Severino vs. Verlander. I don’t know of any more possible matchups that could be as exciting. Two of the best fireballers in the baseball going at each other in a high-stakes playoff game. Inject it into my veins. And, of course the first few innings lived up to that hype. Both teams were scoreless for the first three innings. Luis Severino did not record any strikeouts but outs are outs. You can’t be too picky about them in the postseason.

In the third inning, the Yankees bats came close to getting the big hits but were befallen. With one out, Chase Headley got a fastball down low and middle and drove it towards the right field fence. Normally, maybe 8 out of 10 times, that’s a home run or a double. However, Josh Reddick had it played beautifully and robbed Headley of a big hit with a jump catch. A batter later, Brett Gardner pulled a line drive down the right field line. He got to second easily and it seemed like he had a legitimate chance to reach third. However, the Astros turned a great relay from outfield to infield to make it very close at the third base. Third base umpire initially called it safe. But… was it?

bandicam-2017-10-15-06-01-56-211

Nope. Again with the game of inches! Upon replay, the umpires determined that Alex Bregman just got Gardner. That was the third out and ended the frustrating half inning for the Yankee bats.

In the bottom of the fourth, just like yesterday, the Astros struck first. With one out, Carlos Correa hit a 99 mph fastball up and away from the zone over the right field fence. Look at the location here. The fact that he hit it squarely enough for a home run is nuts:

bandicam-2017-10-15-06-23-55-917

Or… did it actually go out? The ball bounced out of a kid’s glove right above the wall and the umpires decided to see if it’s a Jeffrey Maier situation. However, the ball was clearly going over the fence before it hit the kid’s glove. The umpires ruled it a home run and Astros took a 1-0 lead. I thought that Aaron Judge might have had a chance to make a leaping catch to rob it but he did not get back there in time – probably because that liner was scorched.

The Yankees got one back (a run!) the next inning. With two outs, Aaron Hicks squared up a 97 mph fastball up in the zone for a double. Todd Frazier followed it up with a deep flyball to left-center. In a normal ballpark, that very well could have been a home run, but instead, it got stuck in the fencing under the seats. I don’t know if that has ever happened before. The ball got stuck in there so neatly that you’d think that someone placed it by hand. The umpires ruled it a ground-rule double and that brought Hicks home for a 1-1 tie game.

Going into the bottom of the fifth, Yankees put in Tommy Kahnle to relieve Severino. Wait what? Sevy had thrown only 62 pitches but he was hit by Yulieski Gurriel’s comebacker in the fourth. If there’s any bright spot, he was hit on the non-throwing arm wrist. Also, prior to that, Girardi visited the mound after a pitch sailed way outside. Fortunately, Severino was only removed as a precaution. They would rather have him be 100% for the next start (if there is one). Also, because of the array of arms that they have in the ‘pen, it makes it easier to chew up innings while keeping the game close.

Kahnle took care of the fifth and sixth and Robertson got the seventh and eighth – and they were masterful. Both of them combined for a 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB and 3 K performance to keep the game tied. Now, if only the bats could take advantage of the pitchers balling out.

However, besides that one run that they scored, the offense got manhandled by Justin Verlander. His fastball was classic Verlander, his slider and curve kept the hitters off balance all throughout the game, etc. In nine innings that he pitched today, he allowed only 5 hits, 1 earned run and struck out 13. While it’s remarkable that the Yankee pitchers were able to hold the powerful ‘Stros lineup to one run in the first eight innings of the game, it is very frustrating that the bat has scored only two in the first 17 innings of the series. That is not a good strategy – and they paid for it.

The bitter end

Because the Astros’ best hitters were coming up, Joe Girardi decided to put in Aroldis Chapman, who has, as you may have noticed, very good for about a month and half.

Chappy struck out Reddick rather swiftly. Against Altuve, aka the human hitting machine, he allowed a single on the first pitch 100 mph fastball because it’s Jose Freakin’ Altuve. There’s not a lot of things that you can do when the hitter is 15-for-27 in the postseason. Up came Correa, who had driven in the lone Astros run of the game. Correa hit a liner to right-center that Judge cut off and tried to take a chance to getting Reddick out at second. Meanwhile, Altuve was sprinting past third and going home. Didi Gregorius‘s throw to Sanchez looked like Altuve was going to be out by a mile. Take a look:

bandicam-2017-10-15-08-11-43-421

However, Sanchez could not handle the ball in time and as he tried to pick it up, Altuve slid past him to score the walk-off. I really thought he was dead meat when the throw came in but man, that was some brutal defense from Sanchez. I still believe his long-term future is at catching but that was not a good display.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Leftovers

It is really hard to win when your 2, 3, 4, 5 hitters in the lineup (Judge, Gregorius, Sanchez and Bird) combine for a 1-for-15 effort with 5 strikeouts. We all talk about how bad Judge has looked this postseason (rightfully so) but Sanchez also looks lost against the Astros pitching. Today, he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and, of course, was involved in the game-ending play. Gotta think that it was the worst game of his career.

Here are the box score and video highlights. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs


Up Next

The Yankees are heading back to Bronx to host at least the Games 3 and 4 of the ALCS. The streak stopper CC Sabathia will be on the mound, trying to rescue the Yankees’ season, against Charlie Morton.

Yankees 1, Astros 2: Keuchel quiets the Yankees in Game 1

Oh well, a loss happens. Dallas Keuchel, who has a very well-documented history of dominating the Yankee lineup, did it again tonight, going 7 scoreless while striking out 10 on the way. On the other side of the mound, Masahiro Tanaka shrugged off his road woes to give the Yankees a chance to win. Greg Bird finally gave New York a run in the top of the 9th but it was not enough and too late. Astros won the Game 1 2-1 and the Yankees will look to bounce back tomorrow versus Justin Verlander. Let’s recap this thing.

(Pool/Getty Images)
(Pool/Getty Images)

The pitching duel

In the postseason where the bullpen usage has dominated headlines, tonight was very much about the starting pitching. Keuchel and Tanaka both displayed what they can do. Masahiro didn’t even really display his splitter – which worked so effectively against the Indians – yet he came away with a solid outing. In fact, he did not allow a hit for the first 3.1 innings. It seemed like the battle of who blinks first and it turned out to be the Yankees.

Well, New York came maybe a few feet of air away from scoring two in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Starlin Castro reached on base with a soft single to left. Aaron Hicks got a fastball up the middle and drove it deep to center. It looked like it had a decent chance to be a home run but the ball died right in front of the 409 feet center field wall. Gah. Maybe a tick or two higher launch angle or different direction and that ball’s outta here. A 2-0 lead would have been very gratifying especially against Keuchel. Instead, the Astros struck the next inning.

Jose Altuve’s feet manufactured the first run for the Astros. With one out, Altuve hit a grounder up the middle and beat out Castro’s throw for an infield single. During Carlos Correa’s at-bat, Altuve stole second to put himself in scoring position. It wasn’t even a bad throw from Sanchez either. Altuve got a great jump and simply used his speed to reach safely. The Astros shortstop promptly followed it up with an RBI single to left to cash in a run for Houston. It was a slider that hung up on the zone and easy contact for a talented hitter like Correa. Marwin Gonzalez’s groundout pushed Correa to the second base with two outs. Yulieski Gurriel tacked on another run for the Astros with an RBI single up the middle. With Dallas Keuchel on the other side of the rubber, 2-0 Astros lead seemed like a mighty order to top.

(Elsa/Getty Images)
(Elsa/Getty Images)

A 2-0 deficit  becomes more insurmountable when the team becomes unlucky in the game of inches. In the top of the fifth, the Yankees had two runners on with a Greg Bird single and Matt Holliday reaching on base on an Altuve error. After Todd Frazier lined out and Brett Gardner struck out, it was up to Aaron Judge to make something happen. He got a hold of a slider in the strike zone to line a base hit to the leftfielder Marwin Gonzalez.

At the moment that Gonzalez released the ball on the throw to the plate, Bird had just rounded third base and it seemed like he had a good chance to score. However, 1) Greg Bird isn’t really fast 2) Marwin Gonzalez threw that ball really hard at 97.4 mph. As a result, Bird was tagged out by Brian McCann as his foot was about to slide into the plate. I would not pin that on third base Joe Espada. Bird was well on his way home as Gonzalez was releasing the ball, which is like a runner tagging up way before the throw during the sacrifice fly. Take a look:
bandicam-2017-10-14-10-50-12-244

Again, stupid game of inches. Would have been nice to score a run and get the rally going in that inning but that’s not how it went. Such is baseball. Another annoying thing happened in the top of the sixth when Didi Gregorius hit a blooper that headed towards the left field line… and was just foul. It could have placed a runner on the scoring position with one out but instead, Gregorius ended up striking out. It was close:

bandicam-2017-10-14-11-09-07-564

Tanaka threw a good start. 2 runs allowed in 6 innings of work against the fine-tuned machine that is the Astros lineup is more than enough. Just so happens that Keuchel is a postseason beast that also happens to own New York. The Yankees will have to win the series in spite of him.

The bullpen portion

After Tanaka, Girardi put in Chad Green to keep the game close for the Yankees. It was his first appearance since the ALDS Game 2 disaster and boy, he rebounded well tonight. In two innings, Green struck out two and allowed only two baserunners. I have a feeling that he might be coming out of the ‘pen more frequently this series than in the ALDS. Tonight’s outing certainly helped making his case for more appearances.

On the Astros side, Chris Devenski relieved Keuchel to start the eighth inning. As Gardner walked with one out, A.J. Hinch brought in the closer Ken Giles for a five-out save. Giles threw 38 pitches, which makes you wonder if he will be available at all tomorrow. Even if he will be, he’ll probably be limited to an inning. With two outs in the top of the ninth, it looked like the Yankees will be shut out but Greg Bird denied it. On the third pitch of his at-bat, Bird squared up on Giles’ 98 mph fastball up in the zone into the right field seats for a 399-footer. It was a classic lefty pull power swing and a beauty. I can watch this gif over and over for awhile.

bird

Unfortunately, the time for the Yankees to rally was pretty much at minimum. Jacoby Ellsbury, pinch-hitting for Matt Holliday, struck out in four pitches to end the game. 2-1 Astros was the final score.

Box score, updated standings, video highlights and WPA

Here is tonight’s box score from ESPN, video highlights from MLB.com and WPA chart from Fangraphs.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees are back at it again at the Minute Maid Park tomorrow on 4 pm EST for the Game 2 of the ALCS. Luis Severino will be on the mound against Justin Verlander – two of the league’s best fireballers! Should be a fun one to watch (or gut-wrenching, depends on how tense you feel).