Yankees Postgame Notebook: 167 and out - but not without one final furious rally
NEW YORK - For the second straight night, Yankees manager Aaron Boone saw his starting pitcher labor early and run into trouble often. And, for the second straight night, Boone perhaps waited until it was too late to make a move to his much-heralded bullpen.
The net result tonight was the same as last night, too, only this time, the three runs scored off of CC Sabathia in the third inning were the catalysts in a 4-3 loss to Boston that finishes the American League Division Series in four games, sends the Red Sox to the ALCS, and ends the Yankees' 2018 season.
"We've been through a lot this year, but the one thing I'm proud of is with these guys is the way they always compete," Boone said following the game. "Just really sucks we came up short."
Sabathia quickly got the first two outs of the night, but all of Yankees Universe had to hold their breath as he yielded two soft singles and a walk, only to exhale once Ian Kinsler's shot to deep left was gloved by a running Brett Gardner to escape damage. CC then worked around a two-out walk in the second, but in the third, it all unraveled; he hit Andrew Benintendi to open the frame, and with five straight righties due up, Boone stuck with CC, not even getting anyone warming for a few more batters.
The result: single, sac fly, groundout, double, Eduardo Nunez single, and three runs in before Bradley, the lone lefty other than Benintendi in the lineup, ended the inning with a groundout to first.
"Nothing felt different; I felt good, and my stuff was there," Sabathia said. "I was a little loose because I hadn't been out there in a while, but I felt good. I have no complaints, they hit some soft contact; Kinsler hit a ball hard, but I'll take that soft contact all day."
"I was fine with the way CC was throwing the ball. He was at the two-out point, and we were going to have him go through (Jackie) Bradley," Boone said. "We just knew we had our guys lined up enough that we could get through the game. I think it was a sound decision. Had he gotten Nunez, it might have been the end of his night, but once Nunez got the hit, we were going to let him face Bradley."
The bullpen from there put up six innings of one-run ball, but that one run turned out to be huge. That's in part because, for the second straight night, a Red Sox starter flummoxed the Yankees. This time it was Rick Porcello, who spun five innings of one-run ball, four-hit ball.
"I think one of their goals was to keep us in the ballpark, and then coming here, where we're so good at that, they were able to do that," Boone said. "Credit to them for being able to hold us down and shut us down, but in the end, you don't usually move on when you can't get enough big hits in a series."
The Yankees had finally seemed to be starting to get to Porcello in the fifth, but of all the balls they hit hard in that inning, only Gary Sanchez's ground-rule double stayed fair, and only Sanchez scored after an infield single and a sacrifice fly. And, to finally kill the shaky bullpen narrative once and for all, the combination of Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, and Chris Sale retired nine in a row to bridge to Craig Kimbrel - who ended up almost single-handedly putting that narrative back in play.
Kimbrel allowed two walks, a single, a sac fly, and a hit batter to put two in and two on with two out, but he got Gleyber Torres to ground weakly to ex-Yankee Eduardo Nunez at third; it was a bang-bang play at first, but in the end, a 63-second video review confirmed Torres was out, and the season was over.
"I hoped I was safe, but it is what it is," Torres said. "It's tough, and right now it's a really bad moment, but we just have to move on, continue to fight, and get ready for next year."
"It was pretty intense out there, guys were putting together great at-bats and just grinding, trying to do anything they could to scratch out a few runs," David Robertson, who went 1 2/3 scoreless innings, said. "We put two across, but Craig was able to close the door. I felt like we fought hard, but came up short."
And, after 100 regular-season wins, a thrilling Wild Card Game victory, and a crazy ALDS, the Yankees end with two straight losses that truncate their season one round short of last year, and two rounds short of the ultimate goal - so there's nothing left to do but wait until next year.
"We just have to look for what we can build on from this season, and use it as fuel for next year," Giancarlo Stanton said. "It's a disappointment, but we just have to pull out all the positives and move towards next year."
In lieu of the usual notes and quotes, here's a final six-pack of overall thoughts from some Yankees on a season-long arc, including thoughts from a few who potentially played their last games in pinstripes:
-CC Sabathia knew tonight might be his swan song in pinstripes, but he put a positive spin on it: "I've thought about it, but that's not a sad thing. Hopefully I'll get a chance to pitch somewhere next year - hopefully here, because I love it here. This is a young team that has a lot of talent, and I'd love to be a part of seeing this thing through, because it's going to go through. If not, all you can ask for is to be thought of as a good teammate, who card a lot and was trying to win a championship every time out."
-David Robertson's second tenure in pinstripes ends with two straight playoff runs, and he'd love to be part of more: "I'd like to, but I don't know what's going to happen over the next few months. I'll wait and see…I'd like to be part of the future, but I have to look out for what's best for me, too."
-Brett Gardner may be back if the team exercises his option, but he's also thought about his own mortality in pinstripes: "I'd love to come back. I've never played anywhere else. I'm not going to stand here and say I don't want to play any more baseball; my body feels great, and I feel healthy. My agent and I have a great relationship with Cash and the front office, and we'll sit down and figure that out at the right time, and see what comes of it."
-Stanton on his first taste of the postseason: "I don't want to just experience the postseason, I want to win it all, so I'm just as disappointed as the guys that went further last year and came up short."
-Neil Walker had a late start to the season, but became an integral Yankee down the stretch: "I think if you take away the first six weeks, my season was pretty good. The first seven weeks were not fun for me; it took time to settle into my role, but once I did that and understood what I had to do to help this team, it made my job a little easier."
-Last word goes to back to Gardner and it's this, his answer on how the culture has changed since he came up in 2008: "Man, a lot has changed in 11 years! When I came on, it was much more of a veteran team, and now we've seen a youth movement here the last couple years. A lot of position players are in their mid-20s, and I think it's an exciting time to be a Yankees fan. We're all disappointed with how this season ended, but a lot of these guys have bright careers ahead of them. It's been fun to be around.