The absence of 2020 baseball has left me with an immense amount of time on my hands. Unfortunately, I have used some of this time to reflect on the 2019 New York Yankees season and what went wrong.
I was listening to some talk radio a few weeks back and the subject was “the worst loss of 2019.”
The host of this particular show was hammering home the fact that it was Game 6 of the ALCS. Every caller seemed to agree that the Jose Altuve walk off just after the DJ LeMahieu homer to tie it made this the most excruciating loss. To me, this couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, the ALCS was over long before Altuve’s ball soared towards the train tracks.
Why it was over
The Yankees had already blown their best chance to tie the series, which was Game 4. Masahiro Tanaka vs. Zack Greinke at home was the biggest mismatch of the series, yet the Yankees didn’t show up.
The team was broken down by Game 6. Giancarlo Stanton was cooked. Aaron Judge had the rib issue. Luis Severino wasn’t 100% healthy, and Aaron Hicks was only able to play at certain points. They weren’t close to full strength.
The bullpen was absolutely gassed. The Yankees didn’t even have any available relievers to pitch a potential tenth inning, never mind a game seven. All of those starts of two and two-thirds innings had finally caught up to them.
The Yankees had zero, and I repeat zero chance of winning Game 7 in Houston. Severino was injured. The bullpen was done. Stanton wasn’t able to go. Meanwhile, Didi, Gary, and Edwin all forgot how to swing a bat.
If you think that Severino was going to out-duel a rested Gerrit Cole on the road, you haven’t watched him pitch in the postseason much. Even if his elbow was fine (which it wasn’t) he still would’ve gotten lit up. On a positive note, that Cole guy is now a Yankee.
So which loss was the worst?
Without a doubt, it was Game 2 of the ALCS.
Consider: After stealing Game 1, the Yankees had a chance to effectively end the series in two games. It would have nearly been impossible for the Astros to recover after losing the first two at home. Can you imagine the energy the Yankees would’ve brought back with them after going up 2-0?
Justin Verlander didn’t have his A-stuff. The Yankees had run his pitch count up, and were on the verge of knocking him out in the sixth inning.
Unlike Game 6, the Yankee bullpen was rested and ready to roll after enjoying a blowout in Game 1.
The most pivotal point of this game, and therefore the season, occurred in the sixth inning. With the game tied at two, the Yankees had Verlander on the ropes with a chance to deliver the knockout punch. He was at the 98-pitch mark. The Yankees have runners on first and second with two outs. Verlander is gassed, and Brett Gardner is at the plate. Gardy rips a ball up the middle for an apparent go-ahead RBI single. Altuve bungles the screaming grounder and it bounces off his glove and somehow lands right in front of Carlos Correa. Correa corralled the lucky bounce and threw home to nail DJ at the plate.
This play really epitomizes the breaks the Astros always seem to get against the Yankees. Yankee hits a ball hard for an apparent hit. The ball takes an extremely unlucky bounce to Astros player. Then said Astros player takes advantage of the break and makes the right play while taking all of the momentum with them. Sickening.
If that ball bounces in any other direction, the Yankees have a 3-2 lead, Verlander is gone, and the Yankees have the heart of the order coming up to do more damage and potentially break the game open. The series is probably over. I can’t stress enough how important this sequence was.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter which loss was the worst. The Yankees didn’t win the World Series. Why am I still losing sleep over this game? That’s a question for another day.