I didn’t expect the Yankees to win Game 4. I expected them to lose. I expected them to lose so much that I spent the last few innings of Game 3 and the hours from then until the start of Game 4 reflecting on the end of the season and trying to figure out what I would do during the offseason, not knowing how long it might be.
The Yankees won Game 4 in improbable fashion when the weakest starting pitching option in the team’s eyes allowed only one earned run over four innings and the Yankees’ three best relievers combined to throw five shutout innings. Game 4 was the hard part. Game 4 was the obstacle. Game 5 would be much easier with the Yankees’ No. 1 starter going on three days rest against the Rays’ No. 2 starter on two days rest. The Yankees were set up to beat the Rays in two consecutive games for the first time in 2020 and avenge their embarrassing performance against them in the regular seaso. The Yankees were set up to win the series.
One run. That’s all the Yankees were able to score in a winner-take-all Game 5. One run. A solo home run off the bat of Aaron Judge who hit three solo home runs in the postseason and might as well have not even stepped into the box in all of his other plate appearances. The Yankees produced only three hits in their nine-inning flop to the Rays, despite Gerrit Cole’s outstanding performance (5.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9K, 1 HR). A pair of singles from Gleyber Torres and Aaron Hicks was the rest of the Yankees’ offense, as the team went 3-for-29 with four walks and 11 strikeouts. It was the exact offensive performance Yankees fans have grown accustomed since the team’s last championship when it’s all on the line: a disappearing act.
Like the Astros in last year’s ALCS, who somehow managed to hit worse than the Yankees in the series and still win, the Rays didn’t exactly knock the cover off the ball. The Rays also recorded only three hits in Game 5, the difference being that two of theirs cleared the wall. The Rays tied the game on an Austin Meadows home run off Cole and would go on to win it after a Mike Brosseau home run allowed by Aroldis Chapman, the second season in a row aa long ball off Chapman ended the Yankees’ season.
This one hurts. They all hurt, but this one especially because it was the Rays, because the Yankees were set up perfectly to win Game 5, because it’s another wasted season of this core’s window and because it begins an offseason without a real end date. Yes, the 2021 schedule is scheduled, but there’s no way of knowing if it will take place as currently constructed or when it will take place.
The long, cold offseason is here. For the 11th straight time it has come way too early.
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