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.
Yankee fans thought they could start to quit worrying about Aaron Judge coming out of a troubling postseason slump when he hit a mistake into the left field seats Monday night to finish the Yankee scoring. That was Game Three. In Game Four, Judge made sure they could. For now, anyway.
Just don’t ask the Leaning Tower of 161st Street how his boyhood dreams of hitting for distance in the south Bronx compares to actually up and doing it.
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.
After the Yankees beat the Dodgers in the 1953 World Series, Duke Snider swore to New York Herald-Tribune writer Roger Kahn, much later to write The Boys of Summer, ”I still say we’re the better team.” The ’53 Dodgers owned the National League but lost the Series to the Yankees in five.
“That’s the hell of it,” Kahn replied. “That’s the rottenest thing in this life, isn’t it? The best team doesn’t always get to win.”
Andrew Miller, who’s only human in spite of his reputation, knew the split second Greg Bird swung his bat Sunday that the fastball he threw the Baby Bomber wasn’t long for this world. It wasn’t even long for Yankee Stadium.
Miller had just ended a bases loaded threat when he got Starlin Castro to pop out to the back of the infield an inning earlier. Now, Miller had just thrown Bird a pair of sliders Bird couldn’t have hit with a shovel. And then it came.
Does it feel somewhat strange for Yankee fans that they should be pondering the kind of managerial mishap that usually happened to the other guys? How uncharted for the Yankees is the uncharted territory into which Joe Girardi wandered Friday night, when he failed to ask a review on whether a Chad Green pitch hit the Indians’ Lonnie Chisenhall or Chisenhall’s bat?
When the pros and cons of instant replay come under debate, as they still do even after it’s become entrenched, bet on it. Yankee manager Joe Girardi will be questioned for seasons to come over why he didn’t call for one in the bottom of the sixth Friday.