HOUSTON – And in a wink, everything was gone: the unbelievable comeback, half an inch from the brink of extinction; the dream season with 108 victories of all makes and models, variance and diversity; a chance to win a 28th World Series.
Everything that has disappeared lightning fast, blurry, in a fit of bitter, bitter heartbreak.
In a wink, Jose Altuve joined the ranks of the Yankees – October serial killers who, along with Luis Gonzalez and Edgar Martinez and Bill Mazeroski form an unholy alliance, a quartet of saboteurs who sealed the Yankees with a well-timed – or, depending on your point of view, badly timed – blow removed a bat.
"So many different emotions," said Yankees manager Aaron Boone after the 6-4 defeat that brought the pennant to Houston for the second time in three years. "It's the ultimate pain you can feel in the sport, knowing how good a club we've got, it's hard for it to end … our guys hurt."
said DJ LeMahieu, that was so close to putting itself in a pantheon of eternal Yankee heroes, and whose moment instead will be an abandoned footnote: "We can look we are in the mirror and know that we have fought and know that we have done everything
Within 20 minutes, 43,357 people at Minute Maid Park ̵
The Astros were two outs before the Yankees closed before LeMahieu attempted to join a select corps of Pinstripe October idols, including his boss Boone, and Chris Chambliss and Bucky Dent and Scott Brosius.The mood in Houston was We can only imagine half a continent away when New York battalions were ready to dance on stars as soon as the inevitable happened …
Except after Aroldis Chapman made two fast exits on the ninth continent He then went to George Springer to fall behind Altuve, 2-and-0. Altuve let a slider pass for a punch. He would not do that on the next field, an 84-mile spinner who had disappeared from the moment he left his bat.
"Chappy hangs a board," Boone said, "and a great player caught him.
In an eyeblink, this difficult-to-open season ended in the worst possible way. Everything about who the Yankees were in 2019 and what they were, was represented in this top of the Ninth.
Of course it had to start with the captain of the No-Names, Gio Urshela, who left with a hard single, his fourth time on the base in four record appearances. Of the overcrowded names that helped make this great season – the Tauchmans and the Fords, the Wades, and the Estradas – it was Urshela who represented these irregularities to the very end.
And then LeMahieu.
Throughout the season, he has done such things, one clutch at a time. Over the course of the season, it dawned on everyone that he could count among the big free-agent new additions to team history. This seems to be a delusion, if you think of some of the names – Catfish, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, Goose Gossage, CC Sabathia – but after this season and after the ninth inning at-bat, 10 shots long, with one shot I've just escaped Springer's grip on the wall, how do you argue that?
It was the epitome. It was perfect.
Until it was not.
"They did a few more plays than we did," Boone said.
And then: "Sport can be a bit cruel."
The Yankees Clubhouse pictures were incredibly familiar – players embraced, stifled tears and looked less like a professional baseball clubhouse than the locker room lost at the state high school basketball tournament.
It stopped at Phoenix, and in 2001 Joe Torre hugged each player to Gonzalez & Torch won the World Series. And by 1995, when Martinez scored in the left corner, he scored Junior Griffey and brought Buck Showalter's time as manager abruptly. And until 1960, which Mickey Mantle always called the saddest baseball moment, Mazeroski's Homer over the ivy in Forbes Field reduced him to a craving for the game.
"No matter how many games we won in the regular season, this is a failure. Aaron Judge said in the middle of despair. "I think about the whole season, guys who get hurt, guys who come back, a lot of ups and downs, I think about missed opportunities and some guys I might not play with …"
Last School day as the last day of the baseball season. There is no game 7 on Sunday. There is no World Series Game 1 on Tuesday at the Bronx. No games anymore. Never more baseball. No more absurd heights and tormenting depths, only a long winter to pitchers and catchers. Sport can really be a bit cruel. Especially this one.