HOUSTON — And in an eyeblink, it was gone, all of it: the hard-to-believe comeback, half an inch from the brink of extinction; the dream season stuffed with 108 victories of all make and model, all variance and variety; a chance to win a 28th World Series.
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 — or, depending on your point of view, ill-timed — swing of a bat.
“So many different emotions,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said following this 6-4 loss that delivered the pennant to Houston for the second time in three years. “It’s the ultimate pain you can feel in sports, knowing all that so many put into it, knowing how good of a club we have. For it to end that way, it’s hard … our guys are hurting,”
Said DJ LeMahieu, who came so close to enlisting in a pantheon of forever Yankee heroes and whose moment will instead be a forlorn footnote: “We can look at ourselves in the mirror and know we battled, know we did all we could possibly do.”
In the space of 20 forever baseball minutes, there were 43,357 folks inside Minute Maid Park — and a few million more back home, in New York — treated to all of the extremes that this remarkable sport allows.
The Astros were two outs away from closing the Yankees out before LeMahieu tried to join a select corps of pinstriped October idols, a group that includes his boss, Boone, and Chris Chambliss, and Bucky Dent, and Scott Brosius. The mood in Houston was funereal. We can only imagine half a continent away, there were battalions of New Yorker ready to dance on stars as soon as the inevitable happened …
Except after getting two quick outs in the bottom of the ninth, Aroldis Chapman walked George Springer, then fell behind Altuve, 2-and-0. Altuve let one slider pass for a strike. He wasn’t going to do that again, on the next pitch, an 84 mph spinner that was gone from the moment it left his bat.
“Chappy hung a pitch,” Boone said, “and a great player got him.”
In an eyeblink, this hard-to-fathom season ended in the worst possible way. Everything about who the Yankees were in 2019, and what they were, was represented in that top of the ninth.
Of course it had to start with the captain of the no-names, Gio Urshela, leading off with a hard single, his fourth time on base in four plate appearances. Of the crowded pile of names that helped craft this splendid season — the Tauchmans and the Fords, and the Wades and the Estradas — it was Urshela who would represent those irregulars right to the end.
And then, LeMahieu.
All season he did things just like this, one clutch hit after another. As the season went along it began to dawn on everyone that he might well be among the great free-agent acquisitions in team history. That seems delusional when you think of some of the names — Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, Goose Gossage, CC Sabathia — but after this season, and after that ninth inning at-bat, 10 pitches long, capped by a shot that just eluded Springer’s grasp over the wall, how do you argue it?
It was quintessential. It was perfect.
Until it wasn’t.
“They made a couple of more plays than we did,” Boone said.
And then: “Sports can be a little bit cruel.”
The images from the Yankees’ clubhouse were eerily familiar — players hugging, choking back tears, looking less like a professional baseball clubhouse than the losing locker room at the state high school basketball tournament.
It hearkened to Phoenix, and 2001, Joe Torre hugging every player after Gonzalez’s flare won the World Series. And to 1995, when Martinez’s shot down into the left-field corner scored Junior Griffey and brought an abrupt end to Buck Showalter’s time as manager. And to 1960, what Mickey Mantle always called saddest baseball moment, Mazeroski’s homer over the ivy at Forbes Field reducing him to a postgame crying jag.
“No matter how many games we won in the regular season, this is a failure,” Aaron Judge said, in the middle of the despair. “I think about the season as a whole, guys getting injured, guys getting back, a lot of ups and downs, I think about missed opportunities and some guys I might not play with again …”
It felt as much like the last day of school as the last day of baseball season. There’s no Game 7 Sunday. There’s no World Series Game 1 on Tuesday back home in The Bronx. No more games. No more baseball. No more absurd highs and excruciating lows, just a long winter until pitchers and catchers. Sports really can be a little bit cruel. Especially this one.
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Born in Syracuse, NY. He holds a bachelor of science degree in communication from Florida Institute of Technology with specialization in technical writing, business, public relations, marketing, media, promotion, and aerospace engineering. ⭐️ Las Vegas Entertainer ⭐️ MTV uplaya Platinum Auddy Award Winner ⭐️ Southeastern FTTF Talent Champion ⭐️ Movies & TV ⭐️ Listed in ‘Who’s Who’ publication ⭐️ Voted ‘MOST MARKETABLE’: Sonic Records ⭐️ U.S. Veteran ⭐️