Postseason Baseball at its Best

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Postseason Baseball at its Best

Sophia Vlahakis, Senior School News Editor

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It’s hard to not be romantic about baseball. If there is anything that can attest to this, it was the ALCS where Houston defeated the Yankees in a passionate display of America’s favorite pastime. 

This series was predicted as inevitable before the start of the season, when the Astros added Gerrit Cole, giving them one of the most dominant starting rotations in all of the MLB and the Yankees neglected to pick up a high profile pitcher, which would undoubtedly be a factor in this series. 

Game one was an easy Yankee victory. It wasn’t even close as Masahiro Tanaka pitched like an ace, only allowing one hit in six innings, and the offense put up numbers to win 7-0. Though game two was up for grabs, Justin Verlander proved to be dominant demonstrating his case for a second Cy Young in a game that stood tied at two going into the 11th inning.  In the bottom of the 11th, before most people were even aware the first pitch was thrown, Carlos Correa homered, lighting a fire under the Astros as they headed to the Bronx.

In game three, the biggest battle was perhaps between Gerrit Cole and his teammate, Verlander, to see who could pitch a more dominant post season game, and once again show that the AL Cy Young is a race for the ages. Cole pitched seven innings, allowing four hits and no runs. The Astros won 4-1, with homers from Jose Altuve, Josh Reddick, and an RBI from Yuli Gurriel.

In game four,  Zach Greinke, acquired at the trade deadline with a 3.35 career ERA, took the mound. Greinke, who has serious anxiety issues, was definitely challenged, pitching in the infamous playoff atmosphere of Yankee Stadium. Though his start resulted in a great 8-3 win, where both aces lasted minimal innings. Greinke only lasted four, allowing one run and three hits, and in the five innings Tanaka pitched, he only allowed four hits in one half inning, but unfortunately that resulted in four runs. This game saw the Houston offense that everyone had been talking about and gave the Astros a chance to return home with the pennant already clinched. 

After a rough start in the following game, where Verlander gave up four runs in the first inning, he settled in to pitch seven innings and only allow five hits. However, Houston’s offense was unable to produce in the batter’s box against a dominant Paxton, despite allowing a run in the first. New York won 4-1, forcing the series to continue and head back to Houston.

Game six was a nailbiter from the second the teams took the field.  With both the Yankees and Astros starters on minimal rest, it was a bullpen game. This game that could send Houston to the World Series and leave New York behind, laid in the hands of a relief pitcher, Chad Green, who had already pitched three times in this series for the Yankees, and for Houston, Brad Peacock, who with the exception of the night before, had not pitched since September 29th. 

The Astros were on top first, 3-0, after a three run homer by Gurriel in the first. The Yankees responded in the following inning after an RBI single by Gary Sanchez. The Astros extended their lead with a fielder’s choice from Bregman, and the Yankees added with a Gio Urshela homer to make the score 4-2 Astros going into the top of the ninth. The Astros were feeling good with their closer, Roberto Osuna, on to get the final three outs.  With one out and Urshela on base, DJ LeMahieu homered to tie the game and keep the World Series hopes of the Yankees alive. Just like that, the Yankees were pushing a game seven and given their history, it seemed like the pennant was destined to be theirs. 

With the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, Adroldis Chapman, who had only allowed three hits in his previous nine appearances and only one run, came in to pitch. Following two quick outs, he walked George Springer. Coming down to his last few strikes, 5’6” Jose Altuve hit a monsterous homer to walk off the game, send the Astros to the World Series, and for the first time in 100 years leave the Yankees without a World Series appearance in a decade. 

It was a storybook ending. The guy who had been written off for his height, will be associated with one of the most spectacular postseason baseball moments of all time. Verlander put it best when he said, “I say he’s a giant in every sense of the word except for his height. In everything else, he’s seven foot tall. Teammate. Baseball player. Everything.”

Despite a competitive series, ironically it did not measure up to all it was expected to be. Yes, the Astros pitchers were dominating for the most part, though the offenses on both teams were quiet compared to how they performed this past season with over 100 wins and each team in the top three for runs scored in the MLB. 

With the exception of Altuve, the Astros offense did not put up numbers that they expected and stranded a ton of base runners in big moments. Yordan Alvarez is only batting .171 this postseason, as is Correa, who had at least come up big with a walk off homerun in game two. More is also expected from AL MVP candidate Alex Bregman, who has 9 hits off 35 at bats, and was not able to deliver when coming up with batters in scoring position. The ALCS MVP went to Altuve as it should have, who is batting .349, has the most hits, and leads both teams in the ALCS with most postseason home runs (5). 

The Yankees, a team reliant on their offense, did not put up the numbers that they had hoped for. LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres both batted over .320 but the rest of the offense was not reflective of the team that had 306 home runs in the regular season. Much more was expected of Edwin Encarnancion, Gary Sanchez and Brett Gardner, who all with over thirty postseason at bats, hit under .200. To demonstrate the weak offense, the Yankees went hitless at 15 consecutive at bats with runners in scoring position, their longest drought all season. 

In the end what it came down to was pitching and timely hitting, as was predicted. Verlander and Greinke were absolute stars, Greinke had a solid outing and the Astros bullpen depth left them with the opportunity to give pitchers proper rest. The Yankees were another story. 

CC Sabathia was injured in game two against the Astros, which would unfortunately be his last outing as a pitcher. He had been available to pitch relief and that left the Yankees without a pretty reliable arm. Tanaka was an ace, and Paxton came up big, but they didn’t compare to the Astros’ Cy Young caliber pitchers. One of the key problems concerning pitching was the lack of ability for starters to go deep into the game and lack of depth in the bullpen. It’s  obvious a team would rather face the same pitcher more than once in a series, because they will be fatigued and also, batters know what to expect. The Yankees bullpen saw the likes of Adam Ottovino and Zach Brition five times, and Chapman and Green four times, so it’s clear the Astros had the advantage here. The loss of Domingo German also was a contributing factor.  German was placed on leave for violation of the league’s domestic abuse policy and did not make the postseason roster. German had an 18-4 win-loss record, so his presence could have made a difference in a series that could have easily gone to a game seven.

Love or hate the Yankees or the Astros, this series was undeniably one of the best matchups the MLB has seen in recent years. It had the competitiveness of a Yankees-Red Sox game, and fan bases and players passionate about winning like the Cubs in 2016.  Up next the World Series, the Houston Astros vs the wildcard Washington Nationals.

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