After carrying the Yankees all season, it came down to Aaron Judge. The slugger who set an American League and Yankees’ franchise record for home runs, had one last chance to keep what could be his last season with the Yankees alive. The outfielder grounded out to the pitcher and walked off slowly. He watched as the Astros celebrated their 6-5 win and sweep of the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
Houston left the field to head into the World Series where they will face the Phillies. Judge and the Bombers walked off the field Sunday night with a very uncertain future.
Judge, the soon-to-be free agent, has been the face of the franchise and the one to step up after the 2017, 2019 and 2022 ALCS losses to the Astros. GM Brian Cashman’s contract is also up after the World Series. There are questions about the Bombers’ approach to analytics, roster construction and managing.
In 2017, when Judge led the “Baby Bombers,” to a surprise run to Game 7 of the ALCS, there was the expectation of so much success ahead. Since then, the Bombers have won the AL East twice and have never gotten back to a Game 7. They were eliminated in six games in 2019 and this year, they were swept. This is the fifth time the Yankees have trailed a best-of-seven series 3-0 and they were swept in all five of those.
A 99-win team in the regular season, Sunday night’s game had a little of everything from the past six month: a home run, a rally, an injury and a reliever giving up the lead.
Nestor Cortes left in the third inning with a left groin issue which has been bothering him for awhile. He allowed three-earned runs on three hits and three walks. He struck out two in two innings (plus three batters) work.
After Jose Altuve beat out a broken-bat infield grounder to first baseman Anthony Rizzo, Gleyber Torres made a bad feed on a Pena ground ball that could have been a double play. Instead the ball got past a tripping Isiah Kiner-Falefa and put two on base when Yordan Alvarez slapped a ground-ball single into right field allowing the speedy Altuve to score the tying run.
That chased Loaisiga after running up his pitch count to 32. Clay Holmes came in and gave up a line-drive, go-ahead RBI single to Alex Bregman.
Harrison Bader had hit his fifth home run of the postseason with two outs in the sixth to give the Yankees a very brief lead. The 375-foot shot off Hector Neris to left field gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead. The Yankees helped give the lead back with a costly error in the sixth. He had also led off the fourth with a single and scored on Rizzo’s RBI-singleBader hit five home runs in 86 games in the regular season, none after being traded to the Yankees. In nine playoff games, Bader has matched that.
Bader wasn’t acquired at the trade deadline for his offense, however. The Yankees sluggers struggled. It was the first time in their last 11 postseason games, the Yankees had more than six hits. That snapped their postseason record at 10 straight games. McCullers had not faced the Yankees in the playoffs since throwing four scoreless innings to close out Game Seven of the 2017 ALCS.
They jumped him early with Bader, back in the leadoff spot, singling to start the bottom of the first. It was only the third time the Yankees had ended an inning with a lead against the Astros this season, the first in the ALCS. The two other times were in their two walkoff win Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch and that was followed by RBI singles from Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres. Rizzo’s RBI-double in the second gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead.
That snapped a 14-inning scoreless streak, dating back to Torres’ RBI single in the fourth inning of Game 2.
But Cortes quickly lost that lead.
Cortes has been dealing with the left groin issue since the beginning of the playoffs, according to Aaron Boone. It was also the same injury that put him on the injured list in August.
In the top of the third, Cortes walked the Astros’ No.9 hitter Martin Maldanado on five pitches and Boone and the trainer came out to see him. He walked Jose Altuve on six as there was a scurry in the Yankees bullpen — though noone was throwing. It was the first time this season that Cortes had walked back-to-back hitters all season, clearly the Yankees knew something was wrong.
Jeremy Pena cracked an 82-mile an hour cutter that just didn’t cut for a 408 foot, three-run, game tying home run.
Cortes came out after that shot.
Yordan Alvarez doubled off Wandy Peralta and scored on Yuli Gurriel’s single to give the Astros a 4-3 lead.
Bader led off the fourth with a single and scored on Rizzo’s RBI-single.