A record-setting season by Savages in the Box ended with a string of strikeouts and another October bust for the New York Yankees.
For the first time since the 1910s, the 27-time champions have gone through an entire calendar decade without making it to a World Series.
An AL Championship Series of squandered chances ended when Aroldis Chapman allowed José Altuve’s pennant-winning, two-run homer in the ninth inning Saturday night that gave the Houston Astros a 6-4 win and the pennant in six games.
“No matter how many games we won in the regular season or what else we did, the season’s a failure,” Aaron Judge said. “I just think about the missed opportunities.”
Altuve became only the second player to eliminate the Yankees in the postseason with a walk-off homer, the first since Bill Mazeroski’s homer off Ralph Terry won Game 7 of the 1960 World Series for Pittsburgh.
“It will serve us well going forward when we get to the top of the mountain,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
Chapman, pitching perhaps his final game for the Yankees, said he wanted to get ahead with a slider and never thought about pitching around Altuve.
“It didn’t land in the spot where I wanted, and he took full advantage of that,” Chapman said through a translator. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the best or the worst batter, I’m always going to go out there and challenge that hitter. Throughout my career, I’ve faced everybody the same way.”
When the ball went over the wall, Chapman said: “for that split second, I couldn’t believe it.”
After a regular season with 306 homers, the Yankees got two more to overcome a 3-0, first-inning deficit, a solo shot by Gio Urshela and DJ LeMahieu’s two-run drive off Roberto Osuna in the ninth.
“Extremely disappointing. We set out to win the whole thing,” LeMahieu said. “Everybody was extremely focused. I think we all had the belief we were going to win the series one way or another.”
But after talking all year about how important it was to gain home-field advantage, the Yankees showed what a slight let-up in the last 10 days of the regular season meant. Houston finished with 107 wins and the Yankees 103, giving the Astros hosting rights for the first two games of the ALCS and the last two.
And so after losing Game 7 at Minute Maid Park two years ago, the Yankees lost their fourth straight ALCS since their last World Series title in 2009.
New York went 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position, finishing 6 for 35 (.171) in the series with 42 runners left on base — that after leading the majors with a .294 RISP during the season. The Yankees lived and died by the homer, scoring 15 of their 21 runs in the series on 10 long balls. They struck out 11 times in Game 6, raising their series total to 64.
Edwin Encarnación was 1 for 18 with 11 strikeouts and no RBIs, Gary Sánchez 3 for 23 with three RBIs, Judge 6 for 25 with two RBIs, Didi Gregorius 5 for 23 with no RBIs. Brett Gardner, the 36-year-old outfielder uncertain about his future with the Yankees, was 3 for 22 with one RBI and 10 strikeouts.
“A couple of timely hits, this series might be different,” Judge said. “We might not even be playing a Game 6.”
New York has gone longer between World Series seasons, but the 2010s are the first decade since their first championship in 1923 that the Yankees didn’t even get a chance to play for a title.
Boone, whose Game 7 homer lifted the Yankees over Boston in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, avoided saying whether anything short of a title was a failure.
“I know as an organization myself, our players, we’re chasing a championship and we’re doing everything we can. We want to be champions. So that’s the goal. That’s the focus,” Boone said.
“Putting a label, success, fail, all that, I don’t really have time for it, honestly,” he said. “I’m proud to go compete with those guys every day. I reject it a little bit but I don’t really get caught up in the question, either.”