Jose Altuve said after Game Six that he expected both the Astros and the Yankees would leave everything on the field in Game Seven of the American League Championship Series. He may have been too polite to say that, except for one Game Six burst, the Yankees may have left everything behind in New York.
This was the game Justin Verlander lived for from the first time he donned an Astros uniform this year. He’s 3-1 with a 1.49 ERA lifetime in postseason elimination games. He pitched a complete game masterpiece in Game Two of this American League Championship Series.
This was not in the Astros’ plans. Weren’t their starting pitchers, fortified by Justin Verlander’s arrival, supposed to keep these Yankees in check even when the American League Championship Series moved to the south Bronx? Enough that even their rickety bullpen could keep the Baby Bombers in their cribs?
They’re probably thinking now that it’s a bloody good thing they have a) the series home field advantage, and b) Verlander to pitch Game Six back in Houston. They’re probably also hoping Lance McCullers is willing to take the ball on somewhat short rest in a Game Seven if there is a Game Seven.
Of all the people watching when Todd Frazier connected off Astros starter Charlie Morton in the bottom of the second Monday night, there were two who were the most disbelieving: Frazier and Morton themselves.
Aaron Judge putting a dent in his postseason-long slump in the bottom of the fifth was believable enough to Yankee fans and too believable to the Astros. But Frazier looking like he was stumbling over a rolling oil drum as he swung with two out and two aboard wasn’t supposed to hang up a three-spot with that swing.
Justin Verlander’s career could end today, and Saturday’s the game they’ll remember him for for years to come. The no-hitters of the past? The dominance he once had in Detroit and re-claimed down the stretch for this year’s Astros? Sure, you’ll think of that. Hard not to.
But Game Two of this American League Championship Series is the one you’ll remember. When he went out like his vintage self and struck out a lucky (for him) thirteen Yankees and surrendered one measly fifth-inning run while pitching a five-hitter and giving the Astros bullpen the day off.
The Blue Jays picked the absolute wrong time to get shut out for the first time in postseason play. Ever. And thanks to a kid who’d only thrown eleven major league innings ever until Wednesday afternoon, aided and abetted by that skin-tight bullpen, the Indians are going to the World Series after hammering down the Jays, 3-0.
If the Blue Jays have any prayer of coming back to win an American League Championship Series in which they opened two games in the hole, they have but one recourse. They’re going to have to arrange Andrew Miller’s kidnapping.
“[B]aseball is so rooted in traditions,” tweeted Dodger pitcher Brandon McCarthy, after the Indians beat the Jays a second straight time Saturday afternoon, “that hitters still take their bats to the plate against Andrew Miller even though they’re not needed.”
In 1946 it was Enos Slaughter’s mad dash home in the eighth inning while Johnny Pesky held the ball. (Actually, he didn’t, but Pesky had no chance to throw home in time after taking a high throw in from center field.) And it meant a World Series triumph for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Almost seventy years later, it was Lorenzo Cain’s mad dash home while Jose Bautista threw to second. Also in the eighth inning. But it meant a trip to the World Series for the Kansas City Royals Friday night.
You thought Jacob deGrom and the New York Mets bullpen knew how to handle the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League division series? You should have seen Edinson Volquez and the Kansas City Royals handling the Toronto Blue Jays in Game One of the American League Championship Series.
And if you thought often-enough criticised Mets manager Terry Collins figured out a few ways to work on the fly against a very deficient Don Mattingly, you had to watch often-enough criticised Royals manager Ned Yost defy a few expectations himself.
J.J. Hardy’s two-out, down-to-the-Orioles-last-strike hopper caught Mike Moustakas right where Moustakas wanted it on the third base line. Moustakas’s high throw across the infield caught first baseman Eric Hosmer right where he wanted it. OK, a little bit high, but nothing to it. We do this kinda stuff to ‘em all throughout the picture.
Just like the only two runs the Royals would need to put on the board all day long scored on a pair of grounders and a sacrifice. Big deal. We do this kinda stuff to ‘em all throughout the picture.