As Red Sox first baseman Steve Pearce stretched, toeing the bag for the final out of the Yankee season, leaving the tying run on second, it felt like a microcosm of their season. Time after time they came from behind, only to fall just short, a pattern that would continue into the postseason.
After an easy and encouraging 7-2 victory against Oakland in the American League Wild Card game, the Bombers failed to perform in every aspect as they fell to Boston three games to one in the best of five series.
This one hurts. Not just because it was against the Red Sox, or because Aaron Boone doesn’t know how to manage a pitching staff, but because the Yankees failed to play to their highest potential in the most important games of the year.
Scoring 14 runs over four games is simply not going to do it in the playoffs. The bats went silent, and when they woke up, it was always too little, too late.
Falling behind early in game one and four, they stormed back late in each to no avail, losing both 5-4 and 4-3 respectively.
The Yankees just couldn’t get the big hit and as he did all season long, Giancarlo Stanton got his biggest hit when it mattered the least. A solo blast to left in the eighth inning of Wild Card game raised the Yankees advantage from 6-2 to 7-2.
The Yankees left a whopping 28 runners on base throughout the series and batted .154 as a team with runners in scoring position. The only bright spot on offense was Aaron Judge who batted .421 with three home runs and four RBI’s.
They failed to do it on the mound as well. Three of their fourth starters: J.A. Happ, Luis Severino and CC Sabathia failed to record an out in the fourth inning, each putting the team in an early hole.
During that rough second half of the season, it seemed the Yankees could only win with the long ball, a pattern that would continue in the postseason. The Yankees sole victory came via a Gary Sanchez solo home run, a three-run home run and a solo shot off the bat of Judge as the Yanks slugged their way to a 6-2 victory.
In the playoffs against an incredible offensive team like the Red Sox, you cannot live or die by the home run. Not even the 2018 Yankees, the greatest home run hitting team of all time.
The turning point of this series came on one decision by manager Aaron Boone, one that cost his team the game, and shifted the momentum in the series.
After being knocked around early, and barely escaping the third inning, Boone threw Severino back out there where he would subsequently load the bases on the first three batters he faced. He decided that then would be the perfect moment to go to his bullpen, handing the ball not to a strikeout pitcher, or one of their many excellent relievers, but to a career long starter in Lance Lynn.
The Red Sox would go on to score seven runs that inning in a 16-1 rout, the worst defeat in Yankee postseason history.
In the end, no matter how you slice it, Boston was simply the better team. They will now move on to face the Houston Astros in the best of seven American League Championship Series.
As far as the Yankees, it is very hard for me to call this season a failure like I know many fans will. Although falling to Boston in the ALDS, the Bombers won 100 games, something they have not done since their last championship season in 2009. They broke the single season home run record set by the 1997 Mariners and introduced a boatload of young new talent that have solidified spots on this team for years to come.
The season may not have ended the way we would have liked, but you most certainly cannot call it a failure. However, it surely was disappointing. For a team that improved so much to not even get as far as they did the year before is frustrating. Albeit against one of the all-time greatest teams, I believe this club had enough talent to come out victorious.
Heading into next season, the Yankees will need to re-evaluate their starting rotation. With CC on the brink of retirement, wild cards like Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery and the poor second half performance by Severino, the rotation is a question mark and the main priority this offseason.
If watching the Boston Red Sox celebrate in your house isn’t enough motivation heading into next season, I don’t know what is.
Caps off, Boston, you earned it. But we won’t forget this one.
See you next year.