October 22, 2019

WS1: Nationals at Astros, 8 PM ET

Nationals -
Astros    - 
Max Scherzer / Gerrit Cole

In his last 25 starts, Gerrit Cole has a 1.59 ERA and 0.81 WHIP, with 258 strikeouts in 169.1 innings. It has been exactly five months since Cole was last charged with a loss (way back on May 22!). The Astros have won each of his last 16 starts.

In each of his last nine starts of the regular season, Cole struck out 10+ batters, setting a new major league record: 10, 12, 14, 14, 15, 11, 10, 14, 10. Against those 110 strikeouts, Cole walked only nine men.

On May 23, the Nationals (19-31) lost to the Mets and fell 10 games out of first place. After that, Washington went 74-38, tied with the Dodgers for the best record in the NL and just a hair behind the Astros (74-37).

How do the Astros and Nationals match up? Giving a team 1 point for an advantage (and 0.5 points for a small/tiny advantage and 1.5 points for a big advantage), this mlb.com assessment is Astros 7, Nationals 2.5. Washington has more than a small or tiny advantage at only one position: left field (Juan Soto).

At mlb.com, 37 of the 46 experts (80.4%) are picking the Astros:
Astros in 4 games:       2
Astros in 5 games:       7
Astros in 6 games:      24
Astros in 7 games:       4
Nationals in 6 games:    2
Nationals in 7 games:    7
Who will win MVP?
Gerrit Cole, Astros:           20
Max Scherzer, Nationals:        5
Alex Bregman, Astros:           5
George Springer, Astros:        4
Jose Altuve, Astros:            3
Carlos Correa, Astros:          3
Anthony Rendon, Nationals:      3
Stephen Strasburg, Nationals:   2
Yordan Alvarez, Astros:         1
Major league teams (since 1900) with a wRC+ of 117 or more:

Weighted Runs Created (wRC) ... attempt[s] to quantify a player's total offensive value and measure it by runs. ... Similar to OPS+, Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) measures how a player's wRC compares with league average after controlling for park effects. League average for position players is 100, and every point above 100 is a percentage point above league average. For example, a 125 wRC+ means a player created 25% more runs than a league average hitter would have in the same number of plate appearances. Similarly, every point below 100 is a percentage point below league average, so a 80 wRC+ means a player created 20% fewer runs than league average. wRC+ is park and league-adjusted, allowing one to to compare players who played in different years, parks, and leagues. ... wRC+ is the most comprehensive rate statistic used to measure hitting performance because it takes into account the varying weights of each offensive action and then adjusts them for the park and league context in which they took place.
Eno Sarris, writing in The Athletic, states: "If you're a pitching nerd, this is the postseason for you":
By at least one measure, we're looking at watching six of the top 13 pitchers in baseball this year. ... [L]et’s highlight a standout pitch for each pitcher [in Game 1].

Gerrit Cole's Four-Seamer

This pitch has, among four-seamers thrown 1,000 or more times in baseball this year,
The highest velo
The third-highest spin
The best combination of vertical and horizontal movement
The best whiff rate
The stingiest results allowed
Take a spin on Alex Chamberlain's pitch-type leaderboard yourself and you'll see it's clearly the best four-seamer in baseball, and has gotten so much better in Houston. ...

Max Scherzer's Cutter

This might be Scherzer's worst pitch. And yet, it's top 15 in the league in whiffs per pitch among other cutters. Nuts, right? ... [I]t's one of four breaking pitches he throws, which has to make him one of a very few who has that kind of breaking ball touch. ... It's rare to have someone really be able to separate four breaking pitches like this, and throw a changeup, and throw in the high nineties on the fastball ...

The Nationals' Workload

[T]he Nationals have been pushing their starters hard this postseason. But Joe Sheehan had the numbers in his excellent newsletter, and they are stark.

Big Six (% of IP by Good Nats Pitchers)
                   Reg Season   Postseason
Stephen Strasburg      15%         24%
Max Scherzer           12%         22% 
Patrick Corbin         14%         15% 
Aníbal Sánchez         12%         14% 
Dan Hudson              2%          6% 
Sean Doolittle          4%          8% 
Total                  58%         89%
Going into the postseason, we had our doubts about the Nationals because of their short pen, but they've found a way around it. Nearly 90 percent of their innings from six pitchers! ...

October 21, 2019

Schadenfreude 263 (A Continuing Series)

Lindsey Adler, The Athletic:
Twenty minutes after the Yankees' season ended in a walk-off home run on a hanging slider in Game 6 of the ALCS ... [the clubhouse was silent] other than for the sound of hands clapping broad backs as players hugged one another with bleary eyes ...

Didi Gregorius [is] entering free agency. Luke Voit was left off the ALCS roster. ... Gary Sánchez couldn't outrun the questions about his defense and offensive woes that have defined the beginning of his could-be illustrious career. [Of course, he couldn't outrun the questions. He's lazy as fuck.] ...

"It's a failure," Aaron Judge said after the 6-4 loss in Houston. ... "[T]the season's a failure.”

Judge was solemn with grief ... The team's biggest star takes the success of the team ... as his personal responsibility ... [I]n the immediate aftermath of a sudden and devastating loss, the responsibility clearly weighed heavily on him.

He blamed himself for not getting more timely hits ... Ultimately, that was the difference between the Yankees and the Astros in the six-game ALCS. ...

"Missed opportunities" will be the phrase that haunts the Yankees throughout the offseason ... The devastation of the ultimate loss will be made more painful by what immediately proceeded it ... [a game-tying home run] ...

[W]ith two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Chapman fell behind to José Altuve and threw him the wrong pitch at the wrong time. ... A production crew rolled a makeshift presentation stage onto the field as the Yankees headed quickly for the clubhouse.

"I couldn't believe it," Chapman said of watching Altuve drive his pitch 400 feet away. "I couldn't believe he hit the ball. ... I just couldn't believe it."

The Astros had once again ended the Yankees' hopes of reaching the World Series ...

Marc Carig, The Athletic:
For the second time in three years, with the American League pennant hanging in the balance, the Yankees lost to the Astros ... a defeat that came swiftly and cruelly. ... In the end ... the Astros partied on their home field, the Yankees faced their reckoning. ...

Masahiro Tanaka stared off into space ... CC Sabathia wiped away tears ... Giancarlo Stanton ... [was] apparently too hobbled to appear even to stave off elimination. ...

When October comes and the stakes are at their highest, every flaw is magnified, especially against an opponent that offers no quarter. For the Yankees, that difference came down to pitching. The Yankees' two victories in the series came when their starters pitched six innings. ...

Zack Britton, Tommy Kahnle and Adam Ottavino each appeared five times in the series. Chad Green made four appearances. ... Without more length from the starters, the Yankees' blueprint proved unsustainable.

Fissures in the bullpen began to emerge early in the postseason when Ottavino struggled in high-leverage spots. But he wasn't the only one. ...

But even if the Yankees had won, what were their chances in Game 7? Again, the difference between the two teams was stark. It would have been Gerrit Cole, the postseason phenom, against Severino and a bullpen filled with burned-out arms. ...

Lindsey Adler, The Athletic:
An enduring memory of the Yankees' ill-fated ALCS campaign will be one they would most like to forget: In their biggest games of [the season] ... three of their biggest sluggers were nowhere to be found. For Gary Sánchez and Edwin Encarnación, this was true in the abstract. Their at-bats were largely uncompetitive and left a hole in the middle of the lineup that gave the Astros pitchers free outs and a way to circumvent a productive top of the Yankees order.

In the case of Giancarlo Stanton ... his absence was reality, not just rhetoric. He lost nearly his entire regular season to injuries to his bicep, shoulder and a PCL sprain in his right knee. He played in only two ALCS games after injuring his right quadricep in his first at-bat in Game 1. ...

As players collected themselves and their belongings after their Game 6 loss in Houston, Stanton ... found his way toward the parts of the room where the media can't venture ... where he remained as his teammates offered up on-camera autopsies of a series gone awry. ... Stanton decided he had nothing else to say.

Yankees fans likely won't get a candid explanation for how the team managed Stanton throughout a perplexing ALCS series. ... He was said to be available off the bench in Games 2-4 [but never batted], then appeared at DH in Game 5 [2 strikeouts in 3 at-bats] before disappearing from the lineup again before the decisive Game 6. ...

This was not the way the Yankees drew it up when they acquired Stanton ahead of the 2018 season and Encarnación before the 2019 trade deadline. And yet, they may have seen an even more disappointing scene from Sánchez, the homegrown catcher whose prolonged slumps are now becoming the stuff of legend.

With teary eyes and another postseason collapse to reflect on for the long winter ahead, Sánchez had ... costly defensive lapses behind the plate. Sánchez's postseason stats now sit at .176/.225/.382 over the course of 27 games spread across three Octobers. In nine games this postseason, he struck out 16 times in 31 at-bats. ... Boone found himself doing this song and dance [defending Sánchez and refusing to even consider benching him] last postseason as well, and throughout much of the regular season ...

The Yankees' at-bats with runners on base were often pitiful and deflating, leaving 42 runners on during the six-game series. ...

[T]here is no way to explain the Yankees' postseason departure without looking at the at-bats given away by three of their most dangerous hitters. The breakthrough hits the Yankees needed for most of the week were left there on the table, and Stanton, Sánchez and Encarnación were too far away to grab them.

Do They, Now?

Mike Lupica, once considered (by some) as one of the best sportswriters in the country, is a shell of a poor man's version of his former self.

All he can do at this point is string together basic statements of fact. He puts maybe four or five of these bland sentences together, then hits "enter" a couple of times and starts a new paragraph. Any person reading his column could do his job at this point.

Lupica's latest Daily News column has a nice headline - "Coming Through In October Is Not A Yankee Tradition This Decade" - but it's a brutal (yet fascinating) read. Here are its first four paragraphs, with each sentence given its own line:
The last World Series game the Yankees played was in November of 2009. [Hey, Mr. Writer. How about starting your first sentence with the subject of your piece? "The Yankees played their last World Series game ..." And I have a big pet peeve about "of" in a date. Hate it. And why not give the actual date, since it's a big deal in the context of what he's writing [sic]?]

Derek Jeter had three hits at the new Stadium, on the night when the Yankees brought all their winning over to the north side of 161st St. [Here is the box score.]

Andy Pettitte was the starter and the great Mariano Rivera was the closer and Jorge Posada was behind the plate. [And Damaso Marte got a hold and the great J.A. Happ pitched for the Phillies and Dana DeMuth was the right field umpire. ... Looks like Lupica does not consider Pettitte and Posada "great".]

The Yankees won their 27th Series that night against the Phillies.

Once again the Series was theirs.

And ours in New York City.

The Yankees have been waiting for No. 28 ever since. [Passively waiting for a knock on the door ...]

They had a chance to bring the Series back to the Bronx and back to the city this weekend in Houston, if they could have become the first Yankee team in over 50 years to come from three games to one down and win at this time of year.

Then the new Yankee closer, Aroldis Chapman, gave up one of the most famous October home runs any Yankee pitcher has ever given up, to Jose Altuve, one of the littlest big men in baseball history.

Brett Gardner turned and watched a season end in the Yankee outfield the way Yogi once turned and watched Bill Mazeroski's home run go over the left field wall in Forbes Field a million years ago. [He's so precise with dates, but he can't type 1960? Also, four sentences from now, he'll refer to FDR's first year as president, which was 1933, aka two million years ago?]

The Astros did to Aaron Boone's Yankees what Boone once did to the Red Sox, on the other side of 161st St., in the bottom of the 11th, Game 7 of the ALCS, 2003.

And now the World Series belongs to somebody else.


It belongs to Houston for the second time in three years and to Washington, D.C., which hasn't had one since the first year FDR was president.

To Yankees fans, it is starting to feel as if it has been that long for them.
Lupica offers absolutely nothing a fan could not get from either watching the game or looking at the box score. Lupica wastes 48 words reminding us what happened when Chapman faced Altuve last fucking night! (He's like one of those inane MLB "Flashback" videos that show clips from the 2019 NLDS. Flashback! To five days ago!)

Lupica clues us in that Houston won the pennant — no, sorry, what he writes is that the World Series "belongs to Houston". Whatever the hell that means (because no one has ever said that about a pennant-winning team, ever).

No analysis. No perspective. No style. No guru. No method. No teacher.

King Obvious's History Lesson doesn't get any better as you read on - he tells us TWICE that 10 years without a World Series appearance feels like 100 years to MFY fans - though you might chuckle here and there:
For three straight years, these Yankees have played exceptional baseball.

If you count the playoffs, they have won a total of 308 baseball games in this span. [294 games if you don't. Why does he feel the need to tell us they won "baseball" games?]

They just produced one of the most satisfying – and admirable – seasons in Yankee history, winning 103 regular season games after they put 30 players on the injured list.

Now they lose two crushing extra-inning games to the Astros.

Carlos Correa hits an 11th inning home run in Game 2.

Altuve walks off with their season, after midnight in New York on Sunday morning. [After midnight comes the morning, yes.]

Once again, a very good Yankee team was not good enough.

They thought they had enough bullpen and enough stick – enough to put a $300 million sticker named Giancarlo Stanton on the bench Saturday night – to get back to the Series.

In the end, the most important guy in their bullpen walked George Springer with two outs and then watched Altuve lose one. [Which you have now mindlessly repeated three times, including twice only 41 words apart.]

Two years ago, they came to Minute Maid Park ahead of the Astros three games to two, not behind. [That was 2017.]

They were that close to their first Series in since '09. [Editors are sometimes useful.]

Then they scored one run in the last two games that year. [Good old 2017.]

Not as good as the Astros then. [2017, yo.]

Not as good as the Astros now. [2019, which is not 2017.]

Even at the end, in what was called a bullpen game in Game 6, the Astros bullpen was better. ["What was called" ... by who? ... Oh. Everyone.]

Final score says so.

They bring the Series back to Houston this week.

The Yankees go home.

And 10 years since the last Series starts to feel like 100 to Yankees fans.

As much of a show as they have been, and they were as much a regular-season show as they've been in 20 years, the Yankees have now played two World Series since 2000.

They have played one in the last 16 years. [Isn't math amazing?]

This continues to be the longest stretch they have gone without playing a World Series since the 15 years between '81 and the appearance of Torre's Yankees in 1996. [Good lord. You said they played in one WS in 16 years and that was their longest stretch without playing in a WS! From one sentence to the next, he's clueless. And no World Series appearances from 1982 to 1995 is 14 years (actually, it's 13, since there was no WS in 1995). So much for math.]

This loss to the Astros does not diminish the season they gave their fans. [And yet you will claim, six short sentences later, that the Yankees always have "expectations" of winning it all. So which is it? Has 2019 been diminished or not?]

The Yankees won 100 regular season games in 2018.

The Red Sox were better, winning 108. [108 > 100!]

This year the Astros won 107 to the Yankees' 103.

Now the Astros get them again in the postseason.

This is what it used to feel like for the old Knicks when they were going up against Michael Jordan.

But these are the Yankees.

And the Yankees, in the words of Reggie Jackson, have "expectations," no matter how long it's been since they last won it all, with old Yankee champs like Jeter and Jorge and Andy and Mo.

Now they start all over, after this kind of ending. [That what all 30 teams do at the end of every season, including the WS winner. They start all over, the following spring, at 0-0.]

They have to wonder what they can do, if anything, with Stanton, whom they never needed, certainly not with an A-Rod-like contract that feels as long as the current Word Series draught. [Why the British spelling, old bean? Does that drought feel like 10 years or 100 years or since 1933?]

They have to be prepared to throw Stanton-like money at Gerrit Cole, who just dominated them in an ALCS the way Justin Verlander did two years ago. [Again, that was 2017.]

Over the last three years, the reality is that the Astros got Verlander and Cole and the Yankees did not. [True. I saw those guys wearing "baseball" uniforms with "Astros" on the front a couple of days ago.]

It really does seem as if the Yankees haven't had a starting pitcher overpower somebody the way Cole overpowered them last week since Roger Clemens struck out 15 Mariners in October of 2000.

In the end, the Yankees didn't lose to the Astros because of starting pitching.

They lost because they didn't hit enough in the clutch – until LeMahieu – in this postseason the way they didn't last year against the Red Sox. ["They didn't hit enough in the clutch the way they didn't last year" ... This professional writer's salary would shock you.]

And in Games 6 and 7 the year before that. [Once more, that's 2017.]

"The ultimate pain," Boone said when it was over. [Well, he likely would not have said that before it was over.]

One World Series for the Yankees since he inflicted that kind of pain on the Red Sox once. [A good editor would have deleted that "once".]

Ten years and counting since the last Series.

Feels like a hundred to Yankee fans. [So I've heard. ... It feels like a hundred years since I started reading this column.]

They used to make everybody else wait 'till next year. [But you just said the Yankees went 15 [sic] years between World Series appearances, so I don't understand.]

Now they do. [Barely makes sense following the previous sentence. "They used to make everyone ... Now they do."]

October 19, 2019

Schadenfreude 262 (A Continuing Series)

YED 2001 - November 4
YED 2002 - October 5
YED 2003 - October 25
YED 2004 - October 20
YED 2005 - October 10
YED 2006 - October 7
YED 2007 - October 8
YED 2008 - September 23
YED 2010 - October 22
YED 2011 - October 6
YED 2012 - October 18
YED 2013 - September 25
YED 2014 - September 24
YED 2015 - October 6
YED 2016 - September 29
YED 2017 - October 21
YED 2018 - October 9
YED 2019 - October 19

Jake Devin, Pinstripe Alley:
There is the final play of the Yankees' 2019 season. Altuve's bomb was gone the moment it left the bat, dejuiced ball and all, and after the Yankees spent hours clawing back from Green's early missteps, everything they fought for was gone in an instant.

This season, YED is celebrated on October 20, which is also the 15th anniversary of the Yankees' fourth consecutive loss to the 2004 Red Sox, in ALCS Game 7.

Those four losses, after the Yankees led the series 3-0, constitute the biggest choke in baseball history, an unprecedented flop that will never be surpassed as long as professional baseball is played on Earth.

ALCS Game 6
Yankees - 010 100 002 - 4 10  0
Astros  - 300 001 002 - 6  6  0

ALSO: Spanish, Korean Calls Of Altuve's Walk-Off HR

George A. King III, Post:
It sounded and felt like a funeral home.

Man hugs that produced the loud sound of hands slapping shirtless backs, moist eyes, chins buried on shoulders and soft words that couldn't chill the grief that smothered the Yankees' clubhouse late Saturday night.

Thanks to DJ LeMahieu's dramatic two-run home run in the ninth, the Yankees had gotten off the canvas ... The opposite-field poke to right only tied the score, but a feeling that Game 6 of the ALCS was theirs washed over the Yankees.

So when Jose Altuve, the smallest man on the field with an oversized heart and an ocean of desire, sent an Aroldis Chapman slider beyond the left-field wall for a two-run homer that carried the Astros to a pulsating, 6-4, win in front of a sold out Minute Maid Park crowd of 43,357, the Yankees were ushered into winter and Houston was on the way to their second World Series in three years, where they will face the Nationals.

"At this time of the year only one team goes home happy," Brett Gardner said in a Yankees' clubhouse as quiet as a cemetery after midnight. ...

"It's a failure," [Aaron] Judge said ... "No matter how many games we won during the regular season it is a failure."

It's the first time since 1910-19, the Yankees went through a decade without reaching the World Series. Their last appearance was 2009 ...

It is also the second time in three years the Astros ended the Yankees' season in the ALCS at Minute Maid Park.

Kristie Ackert, Daily News:
Aaron Judge had to walk around the celebration that was forming on the infield. Jose Altuve had just crushed a two-run, walk-off home run off Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman for a 6-4 Astros win over the Yankees, clinching the American League Championship Series Saturday night. The young face of the Yankees franchise made the slow walk in from right field having to watch a team celebrate ending the Bombers' season for the third straight year.

The Astros won the series and advanced to their second World Series in three years, ending the Yankees' season both times en route. The Yankees finished off their most disappointing decade in 100 years. This is the first decade since the 1910s that the Yankees have not even appeared in a World Series. ...

"It's a failure," Judge declared of the 2019 Yankees. ...

They described themselves as Savages in the Box and wore t-shirts with 'Next Man Up' on them as a reminder of how resilient they were. ...

And with one swing on a slider that got away from Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, it was over.

"This definitely isn't how we thought it would end," Brett Gardner said. ...

It will be the sloppiness and missed opportunities on offense that will haunt Judge and his teammates this winter as they try to figure out how to get better than the Astros.

ESPN Stats & Info: "The Yankees' 4 straight LCS series losses [2010, 2012, 2017, 2019] ties the longest streak in MLB history."

Jayson Stark: "José Altuve joins Bill Mazeroski (Game 7 of the 1960 WS) as the only players to hit a walk-off HR to end a postseason series after their team had blown the lead in the same inning. ... Both came against the Yankees."

Carlos Correa: "It's a great series. ... Like they call themselves, they're savages. But in this jungle called the American League, we're the apex predator."

Dan Martin, Post:
The Astros have knocked out the Yankees in the ALCS two of the past three seasons — and no one has hurt them more than Jose Altuve, whose game-winning two-run homer in the ninth sent Houston to the World Series. And the Yankees home. ...

He did that a lot in the ALCS — and Altuve also started a nifty double play on a Gary Sanchez grounder to second to end the top of the eighth.

But no hit was more important than his last. ...

Even after the dramatic ending, neither Aaron Boone nor Chapman regretted the manager's decision to have Chapman pitch to Altuve after a two-out walk to George Springer. ...

Jake Marisnick was on deck, having come in as a pinch runner for Michael Brantley in the bottom of the eighth.

Boone said he didn't consider putting Altuve on to get to Marisnick. ...

And Altuve took care of the rest.

Mike Vaccaro, Post:
And in an eyeblink, it was gone, all of it ...

All if it, gone in a flash, gone in a blur, gone in a spasm of raw, abject heartache.

In an eyeblink, Jose Altuve joined the ranks of Yankees' October serial killers, forming an unholy alliance alongside Luis Gonzalez and Edgar Martinez and Bill Mazeroski, a quartet of saboteurs who've eliminated the Yankees with one well-timed ... swing of a bat.

Ken Davidoff, Post:
This 2019 Yankees' season turned from special to sour in a week's time for one very obvious, analytical reason:

They lost their mojo.

To be more technical, they just stopped hitting with runners in scoring position. ...

Yes, the Yankees are done, courtesy of a 6-4 loss to the Astros in American League Championship Series Game 6 at Minute Maid Park — Jose Altuve crushed a walk-off, two-run homer off Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the ninth — that eliminated them by a 4-2 count as Houston reached its second Fall Classic in three years. ...

No major league team produced at a higher level with runners in scoring position during the regular season than the Yankees, who hit a terrific .294/.372/.518. ... In the second week of October, however, they reverted to their 2018 form, going 6-for-35 (.171). ...

Game 6 proved a fitting coda, the Yankees threatening in this battle of the bullpens and falling short again and again, going just 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. ... [T]he Yankees failed ... stranding men on first and second in the second, the bases loaded in the third and first and second in the sixth. For good measure, they ended the seventh and eighth innings by hitting into double plays. ...

When the Yankees fell to the Red Sox in last year's AL Division Series, they went just 4-for-26 (.154) in their clutch at-bats. ...

Another cold winter awaits [the Yankees] as they try to put together the proper combination of pitching, hitting, defense — and mojo.

Dennis Young, Daily News:
Edwin Encarnacion forgot how to hit; Brian Cashman forgot how to make a brazen trade for a starting pitcher; the Astros are nearly the perfect team. But [Aaron] Judge made the type of mental mistake on Saturday night that's extremely easy to remember.

With the Yankees trailing 4-2 with one out in the top of the seventh, Michael Brantley made a spectacular diving catch on a tweener fly ball by Aaron Hicks. Inexplicably, Judge had already sprinted all the way to second base, making it easy for Brantley to hop up and double Judge off first. ...

Joel Sherman, Post:
[Aaron] Boone turned September into a spa month for the best of his bullpen, so light was their workload. All the preservation was done with October in mind. The Yankees saw those special relievers as the strength of the team. Get those pieces into playoff games early and often and ride that to the Canyon of Heroes.

The strategy did not work. Boone got Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle and finally Aroldis Chapman into Game 6 on Saturday night and they allowed all the runs — the last of them Jose Altuve walking the Yankees out of their season with a two-run homer off Chapman with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Chapman stood wide legged on the mound unmoving after the no-doubt blast enabled the Astros to win 6-4 and eliminate the Yankees in the ALCS for the second time in three years.

In this dramatic ALCS, the Yankees lost a crusher in the bottom of the ninth and a game in extra innings in Minute Maid Park. And the big blow that turned the momentum of Game 2 was a tying homer by George Springer off Adam Ottavino in the fifth inning that was instrumental in the Yanks not stealing two games to open the series in Houston. That helped push Ottavino from the ring of relief trust. ...

In Game 6, Boone could have gone with a traditional starter in J.A. Happ, but instead used one of his relievers of trust, Green, as an opener. Yuli Gurriel hit a three-run homer five batters into the bottom of the first. Kahnle, as the first Yankees reliever to be used a third straight day this season, surrendered a sixth-inning run. Chapman finished the misery.

It is possible the Yankees have been the second-best team in the majors the past three years, losing to the eventual champion Astros in the 2017 ALCS and Red Sox in a 2018 Division Series. There are no trophies for that. ...

In this ALCS, the Astros were better — don't overlook how good they are on defense and the bases. The Yanks' chance to equalize matters was in the pen. ...

That made Game 6 particularly tricky. Without German or total faith in Happ, the Yanks had no clear starter. So Boone turned to Green to try to deal with the righty might atop Houston's lineup. But Green, even when getting outs this postseason, had been hit hard often. ...

When Gurriel batted with two on and two out in the first, he was making his fourth at-bat of this ALCS versus Green. Gurriel was just 1-for-20 in the series, but two of his outs were liners against Green. Gary Sanchez went to the mound to talk to Green, Happ warmed. Green tried to beat Gurriel with a first-pitch fastball up. Gurriel opened up and crushed it into the Crawford Boxes.

It was 3-0. Houston had won its previous 65 home games when it constructed a three-run lead — last losing in July 2018. ...

The Yankees lost using exactly who Boone dreamed all season he would use. The plan had been incubating since February, hardened over the months of the season. Preserve the bullpen arms. Have them primed for October. Get them into the game over and over.

In the end — for the Yankees — that strategy did not provide relief.

Dan Martin, Post:
The Astros used seven pitchers to hold the Yankees to a pair of runs in their ALCS-clinching 6-4 win over the Yankees on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, but it was the gloves of Josh Reddick and Michael Brantley that also played pivotal roles.

Known throughout the season for their outfield defense, the Astros got two key plays to help get them to their second World Series in three years.

With the Yankees down by a run in the top of the sixth, they got a one-out walk from Gary Sanchez and then a single by Gio Urshela to bring up Brett Gardner.

Gardner ripped a low liner to right, where Reddick made a diving — albeit awkward — catch to rob Gardner of an extra-base hit that would have at least tied the game and perhaps given the Yankees the lead.

Instead, it was the second out of the inning. DJ LeMahieu then grounded to shortstop to end the inning. ...

Aaron Judge opened the [seventh] inning with a liner that bounced off a leaping Carlos Correa's glove at short for a leadoff single.

Gleyber Torres popped out to bring up Aaron Hicks, who lofted a fly ball to shallow left.

With the switch-hitting Hicks batting from the left side, the Astros shifted to their right and his flare looked like it would drop. Judge risked it and bolted around second, but Michael Brantley raced in and made a fantastic diving catch, quickly got to his feet and fired a strong throw to Yuli Gurriel at first base to double off Judge.

Instead of a potential second-and-third, one-out situation, the inning was over — and so were the Yankees.

Post Staff:
Aroldis Chapman received a lot of grief and comments on his facial reactions on social media after giving up the game-winning, two-run homer to Jose Altuve in the ninth inning of the Yankees’ 6-4 loss to the Astros in Game 6 of the ALCS on Saturday night in Houston.

Here’s a sampling of some of the reactions:

Ken Davidoff, Post:
With the Yankees' season on the line Saturday night in American League Championship Series Game 6 at Minute Maid Park, they went with a Stanton-less lineup for the fourth time, starting Edwin Encarnacion at designated hitter. ...

Boone didn't want to start Encarnacion — who had slashed a woeful .067/.222/133 through the first four games of this series, then sat out Game 5 as Stanton played — at first base, which would likely shift DJ LeMahieu to third base and Gio Urshela to the bench. ...

The Yankees' decision to remove Stanton from their lineup marks the latest chapter in what has been an absolutely nightmarish second campaign for the 2017 National League Most Valuable Player. ...

This series, he has been plagued by a strained right quadriceps ... The 29-year-old neither looked good or performed well in the Yankees' 4-1 victory over the Astros, going 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts — the first one in the first inning, with teammates on second and third and no outs — against the Astros' Justin Verlander.
Mark Fischer, Post:
Saturday night's game between the Yankees and Astros will feature something that hasn't been done since Babe Ruth wore pinstripes: A pitcher finishing one postseason game, and then starting the next with no rest in between.

Houston Astros pitcher Brad Peacock will become the fourth pitcher in MLB history to do so — and the first in 96 years — when he takes the Minute Maid Park mound trying to eliminate the Yankees in Game 6 of the ALCS ...

The last to do so before Saturday was Firpo Marberry, who in 1924 struck out one batter to save Game 2 of the World Series for the Washington Senators before struggling in three innings as his team lost the next day. The Senators beat the New York Giants in seven games to win the title that year, while the Great Bambino hit 46 home runs for the Yankees.

Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown (Cubs, 1910) and Doc White (White Sox, 1906) are the only others in the exclusive club, with both feats coming in the World Series as well.

In the second inning, Brett "The Great Gazoo" Gardner batted with two men on base and his team trailing 3-1. Called strike 2 looked questionable on Gameday, but strike three did not. It was obviously a BALL! ... But there were no robot umps to save the MFY! ... Plate umpire Marvin Hudson blew the call - and all right-thinking baseball fans looooooved it!!

The MFY also left the bases loaded in the third inning.


UPDATE .............................. DEAD!

CC Sabathia "Gave It His All" On The Mound

[Note: "All" Does Not Include Fielding His Position, A Task Sabathia
Thought (For Years) Opposing Teams Should Not Force Him To Do

Sure, he did ... as long as no one asked him to field his position, because a man has got to draw the line somewhere. And dealing with bunts is where CC chose to draw his line.

August 31, 2017:
I'm an old man, you know what I'm saying? They should want to go out and try to kick my butt. I just feel like they tried to take the weak road ... Let's go, let's play, swing the bat.
Sabathia has long thought that fielding his position was beneath him. In 2015 when Kyle Seager of the Mariners tried to help his team win by bunting. In September 2017, a few weeks after the Red Sox bunted on CC for the second straight start, the Twins also took the weak road.

October 18, 2019

Schadenfreude 261 (A Continuing Series)

Astros  - 003 003 011 - 8  8  1
Yankees - 100 002 000 - 3  5  4

George A. King III, Post:
[T]his is what the Yankees are facing: They must beat the Astros three straight — with the final two in Houston — to cop the ALCS and advance to the World Series. That isn't impossible, but only a sucker would bet on it happening. ...

[T]he baseball obit writers won't treat Aaron Boone's club kindly unless it stuns the universe and takes three in a row from A.J. Hinch's well-balanced outfit.

That is what the Yankees are looking at after a repulsive 8-3, loss to the Astros in Game 4 Thursday night ... that gave the visitors a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The Yankees are in that precarious position because for the third straight ALCS game their bats remained largely dormant and didn't score more than one run in the first five frames when they drew five walks. Making four fielding errors didn't help, either. Nor did going hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position. When the Yankees needed to be at their best to put pressure on the Astros they came up small.

With their season on life support, the Yankees will face AL Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander in Game 5 Friday night in The Bronx. ... The Yankees will counter with James Paxton, who surrendered a run and four hits in 2.1 innings in Game 2.

The ugly night was likely the end of CC Sabathia's ... career. ... [CC] departed with an apparent left shoulder issue after throwing a 1-1 pitch to George Springer with the bases loaded in the eighth. Sabathia's left arm was hanging at an awkward angle after delivering the pitch. ...

DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres each made two errors. It got so bad what was left of the crowd in the ninth inning cheered when Didi Gregorius caught an infield pop.

Kristie Ackert, Daily News:
The Yankees are bobbling and whiffing it all away. After a sloppy 8-3 loss to the Astros at the Stadium in Thursday night's Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, the 2019 Bombers are on the brink of elimination.

On Friday, the Yankees have one last shot to avoid a decade of disappointment. It would be the first decade since the 1910s that they did not even appear in a World Series and just the second in which they did not win one in that span.

The Yankees committed four errors Thursday night, their most in a postseason game since 1976. They struggled with runners in scoring position and struck out 13 times as they let Game 4 get away. ...

The Yankees [bullpen] ... has allowed seven runs over the last three games. They spent big on Adam Ottavino, who couldn't record an out for the second straight game. ...

The Yankees came into October believing their formidable lineup and stacked bullpen would provide the roadmap to a World Series, but Thursday night the bats went quiet.

Slugger Edwin Encarnacion is 1-15 with eight strikeouts in four games. Brett Gardner is 2-for-15 with seven strikeouts in the series and Gary Sanchez was 1-for 16 with seven strikeouts [midway through Game 4]...

Game 4 will be remembered for its missed opportunities. That's without even getting into the four errors the infield committed.

The Yankees went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded ten runners. In these three straight losses, the Yankees went 1-for-16 with RISP.

Mike Vaccaro, Post:
By the time they cued up Sinatra, Yankee Stadium looked like one of those games in mid-May when the rain has chased everyone away, when only close friends and family remain in the seats, huddled against the misery. For even the fiercest, most faithful members of the flock, as midnight came and midnight left, it was best to simply make a quick escape, to the Deegan or the Macombs Dam Bridge or the 4 train.

The chill that swirled around the ballpark all night, and especially at the end, had felt a little too much like winter.

Suddenly, it is the bottom of the baseball season for the Yankees ... Suddenly, the Yankees' toes are tickling the edge of the abyss. The Astros pounded them 8-3, but the Yankees beat themselves plenty, too, picking the worst possible time to turn in their worst fielding game of the year (four errors). And one more time in this series, the offense continued to sputter like a '57 Chevy on a cold February morning. ...

They are down 3-1 in games in this best-of-seven American League Championship Series, and facing some awfully unfriendly odds. ...

And even if they do [win Game 5], Verlander's running mate, Gerrit Cole, will be waiting for them once they get to Texas. It is a most disagreeable task awaiting the Yankees, who for the second straight home game could muster very little ...

Twice — bottom of the first, bottom of the fifth — they had the bases loaded and a chance to flex the offensive muscle that had defined so much of this journey through the 2019 season. They did scratch out a run in the first when Greinke walked Brett Gardner on four pitches, then struck out Gary Sanchez to strand three.

Four innings later they chased Greinke and had the sacks juiced ... But Ryan Pressly struck out Gleyber Torres and Edwin Encarnacion, the Astros exploded in their dugout, a celebration easily audible in the suddenly silent Stadium.

Soon enough, it was 6-1 ... The rest was garbage time. The folks fleeing to the exits had seen enough, and it was impossible to blame them.

"Stranger things have happened," Boone said. "Much stranger."

It is precisely the message he has to sell to his team. There have been other teams that came back from a 1-3 deficit, and for all the overwhelming successes that've written the Yankees' history books, an essential part of their heritage is that [0-3] lead they blew 15 years ago to Boston. It is a black mark on that history but a reminder that their manager's words aren't just Pollyanna pap. ...

[H]is guys are running on fumes, leaking oil, and need to find a whole lot of answers in a short amount of time. Verlander awaits Friday. A year ago, more than a few of the Yankees grumbled at having to see the Red Sox celebrate their victory in the ALDS on Yankee Stadium soil, having to hear the muffled roars leak down the hallway from the visitors' clubhouse. Now they are in danger of enduring the exact same thing, hued in orange rather than crimson. ...

Traces of winter were everywhere at the Stadium on Thursday, and it will shadow the proceedings Friday night, in what could be the last gasp of baseball season in New York City ... added to a mounting heap of championship futility.

Joel Sherman, Post:
The Yankees lost two in a row in The Bronx to Baltimore in late March, followed by losing two straight to the Tigers in the next series to open April. Those two teams went on to be the majors' worst.

Which makes this a full circle moment for the Yankees. Somehow in October they were playing like the Orioles and Tigers. ... Zack Britton: "It was tough to watch."

So tough that most of the sellout crowd had abandoned the Stadium over the final few innings. The few thousand who remained were reduced to mock cheers for such Little League fundamentals as the Yankees successfully catching pop-ups. ...

The Yankees have a three-game losing streak ... They have played progressively worse during the slide, culminating with a performance in an 8-3 loss that was deplorable in every phase. ...

[T]he only thing "Savage" Thursday night was the beating the Astros inflicted. ...

[R]ight now the Yanks look a lot closer to Game 1 of the 2020 season than Game 6 of this ALCS. ... [T]hey appeared outclassed and unnerved. ...

If the Yanks never win a game at home in this ALCS ... overwhelming their personal postseason piñata Minnesota is not enough.

The Yanks are going to have to show they belong on the same field as the Astros. ...

Boone made the hot Gleyber Torres, 22, the youngest cleanup hitter in Yankee postseason history and he responded with his worst game: five hitless at-bats, two strikeouts and two errors. ...

Masahiro Tanaka and Chad Green, as reliable as any Yankee pitchers this October, yielded the three-run homers. Gary Sanchez, who already had mostly forgotten how to hit, suddenly is having trouble catching the ball. Adam Ottavino, as undependable as just about any postseason pitcher ever, still can't get anybody out. ...

The Yankees are threatening not to go out like savages, but like Orioles.

Dan Martin, Post:
Even Gleyber Torres isn't immune to the Yankees' offensive malaise. ...

Batting cleanup in a postseason game for the first time, Torres went hitless and made a pair of errors as the Yankees came to within a loss of their season being over. ...

With runners on first and second and one out against Zack Greinke [in the bottom of the first], Torres swung at the first pitch and popped to first.

Torres ... came up with a chance to turn the tide in the bottom of the fifth, with the Yankees trailing by two runs. ... But Torres made a brief attempt at a Pressly pitch in the dirt. First base umpire Mark Carlson ruled Torres swung for the second out. Edwin Encarnacion whiffed to end the inning and the Yankees never got any closer.

Torres also struck out in the seventh and flied out to end the game in the ninth ...

Only a fine play by DJ LeMahieu in the second saved Torres from a third error.

Joel Sherman, Post:
Even the hint of a rally ignited a sellout crowd in The Bronx. So when DJ LeMahieu singled with one out in the fifth inning, the Yankee Stadium crowd went all Times Square on New Year's.

The Yankees trailed 3-1 ... so the faithful bellowed when Aaron Judge came up, perhaps unaware he was hitless in eight at-bats against Zack Greinke with five strikeouts ... [N]othing quite stirs this fan base like Judge in a big spot.

Judge walked to knock out Greinke on one full-count pitch, and Aaron Hicks greeted Ryan Pressly by walking on another full count. Pressly, Houston's top setup man, was in this game in the fifth inning because Astros manager A.J. Hinch sensed this was the key moment of Game 4. Two-run advantage and heart of the Yankee order due.

The intensity, importance and decibels rose. Aaron Boone had flipped Gleyber Torres into the cleanup spot ... However, Torres was called out going too far with an attempted check swing against a Pressly slider that bounced off the plate. Edwin Encarnacion, who was moved out of the cleanup spot, then struck out too.

Not long after, in the top of the sixth, Carlos Correa hit the three-run homer that had escaped Torres and Encarnacion to blow the game open. Gary Sanchez, who failed in perhaps the Yankees' biggest at-bat of Game 4 in the first inning, hit a [worthless] homer in the sixth. ...

[T]he Yankees failed in every phase and looked outclassed and unnerved by the conclusion. They played like the Orioles over the final three innings, looked like a team ready for winter. ...

The Yanks had not lost consecutive games at home to the same opponent since April. But they have lost two straight in The Bronx to the Astros and three in a row in this ALCS. ...

In the three-game losing streak, they are 1-for-16, including 0-for-13 in The Bronx, and have scored just six runs. ...

The Yankees generally just had bad at-bats and didn't hit the ball with authority. Fourteen balls were hit more than 100 mph in Game 4 — just two by the Yankees. ...

The precise Greinke had walked three batters total in his nine previous starts. He walked three in the first, including Brett Gardner with the bases loaded. He was at 25 pitches. Brad Peacock was warming. But Sanchez struck out on three pitches.

Greinke's fourth walk and final batter was Judge in the fifth. The crowd surged with enthusiasm and hope, imploring a big hit, a huge moment. It did not come. Again. And the plug was pulled on the noise and very possibly this Yankees season.
Dan Martin, Post:
Adam Ottavino's dream is now a full-fledged nightmare.

The right-hander faltered once again in the Yankees' 8-3 loss to Houston on Thursday in Game 4 of the ALCS.

It ended with him leaving to a chorus of boos from The Bronx crowd.

He allowed a leadoff double to Alex Bregman in the eighth. DJ LeMahieu didn't help by making his second error of the night at first base on a Yuli Gurriel grounder. ...

It was the fourth time in seven playoff appearances this year that Ottavino failed to retire a batter. Eleven of the 18 batters he's faced have reached base. ...

After his previous rocky outing, Ottavino said he'd bounce back.

Greg Joyce, Post:
The Yankee Stadium crowd roared, rising to its feet for a measly warm-up pitch in the eighth inning of a game the Yankees were six outs away from losing and reaching the brink of elimination in the ALCS. ...

But [CC] Sabathia's body would not cooperate ... He threw the pitch and immediately knew, walking off the field ... perhaps for the final time in his ... career, before the Yankees ultimately fell to the Astros 8-3 Thursday night in Game 4.

Yes, they do. And they did. ... By (Easily) Winning!

Greg Joyce, Post:
No visiting team expects the outfield at Yankee Stadium to be a friendly environment.

Verbal taunts are par for the course. But A.J. Hinch is ready to take action if his outfielders are put in harm's way again.

After right fielder Josh Reddick said he saw water bottles and baseballs being thrown from the stands by angry fans during Game 3 of the ALCS, Hinch will be on the lookout to protect his players. ...

Reddick said the debris came down on the field in the eighth inning Tuesday when a call was overturned in the Astros' favor.

Dan Martin, Post:
The Astros were cleared of any wrongdoing by Major League Baseball after an investigation conducted because the Yankees were upset with whistling they said was coming from the Houston dugout to signal hitters during Game 1 of the ALCS at Minute Maid Park.

The league checked with officials who were stationed near the Astros dugout in the first two games of the ALCS in Houston and they did not confirm the Yankees' suspicions. ...

Houston manager A.J. Hinch ... blasted the accusations, calling them "a joke. ... [W]hen I get contacted about some questions about whistling, it made me laugh because it's ridiculous. And had I known that it would take something like that to set off the Yankees or any other team, we would have practiced it in spring training. … It apparently works, even when it doesn't happen."
Deesha Thosar, Daily News:
No one expected Houston's bullpen to be the star of the ALCS; that was supposed to be New York's not-so-secret weapon. Yet, when the Yankees knocked Zack Greinke out of his Game 4 start in the fifth inning on Thursday, the Astros' relief corps took over and turned Aaron Boone's savages in the box into sheep at the plate. ...

Houston's bullpen outlasted New York's arms in Game 2 — setting the table for Carlos Correa's walk-off solo shot in the 11th inning. Gerrit Cole fired seven shutout innings in Game 3 before Roberto Osuna pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his first postseason save. ...

[For Game 4, it was] Ryan Pressly, Josh James, Will Harris, Joe Smith and Roberto Osuna. An Astros bullpen made up of all right-handers had no desire to prolong the ALCS ...

The Astros offense gave its relief corps a hand by extending a 3-1 lead to an 8-3 advantage that silenced the 49,067 fans in attendance and deadened the Yankees' World Series dreams. ... That's enough for the clubhouse staff to begin pulling out the plastic wrap that covers the visiting lockers and locate the champagne that can be guzzled as early as Friday.
Mike Vaccaro, Post:
It has been a subject of much discussion ... A small but vocal element of fans wondered — mostly on talk radio — if [Giancarlo] Stanton was really as hurt as he was letting on, which seems an absurd possibility. ...

The more rational and salient point was this: Should Stanton continue to occupy a roster spot if he can't play? It's a sticky situation, because if he is removed from and replaced on the ALCS roster ... he would also be forced to be kept off the World Series roster ...

Frankly, the Yankees did the right thing keeping him on. ...

If the Yankees make the World Series ...
And that's where I stopped reading that article.

Bradford William Davis, Daily News:
Over [the first] three games [of the ALCS], the Bronx Bombers are hitting .220 with a .292 on-base percentage ... [T]hey've had 11 total hits [in Games 2 and 3] ...

Stanton, who homered in Game 1, is dealing with a quad injury that knocked him out of the lineup, but [Boone] has him available for pinch-hitting. (He has yet to pinch-hit.) ...

No one hits the ball harder than Stanton. ... [That's] especially important now, after the Yankees have had a few near-misses on series-altering home runs ...

But Stanton can't rip the seams off the ball from the bench. ...

Time is running out on their chances to maximize their roster. Or, they could find themselves waiting on Stanton through the winter and into April, while another team takes advantage of the squad not offering their best shot at a title.
Bradford William Davis, Daily News:
If there was one place to send Giancarlo Stanton, still allegedly a pinch-hitting option, it came in the fifth inning. Despite Grienke having a sharp slider, the Yankees worked the control artist into a bases-loaded situation. Ryan Pressley came in to relieve the veteran Astros hurler. ...

Edwin Encarnacion is revered by his teammates for his hitting savvy. But the team does not have time for the bat he's swinging (.067 batting average in the ALCS) to catch up with the intelligence and track record. ...

Fangraphs features a stat called Win Expectancy, which it calculates by looking at the count (say, a bases-loaded, two-out game in the fifth) and every other identical situation to see how past teams performed.

So, in this critical juncture, Encarnacion struck out and it was the biggest drop from any Yankee hitter all game, plummeting the Bombers' chances of winning from 33.6% to 23.2%. It was, empirically, the biggest moment of the game. Boone was adamant that he had no plans to pinch-hit for Encarnacion there, telling reporters that this at-bat "wasn't the situation."

So, if Stanton is available, but not playing at the biggest juncture of the year — what's the situation? ...

Whatever it is, [Masahiro] Tanaka didn't have it. But there's a glory to the pitcher giving something despite having nothing. This doesn't mean something is enough, but, still, it's something that with the right lens, you can appreciate.

Apropos of nothing:
Yankees in 2004 ALCS:    W  W  W  L  L  L  L
Yankees in 2019 ALDS/CS: W  W  W  W  L  L  L