Yankees: Analyzing what went wrong during the ALCS

New York Yankees IF Gleyber Torres' face says it all (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
New York Yankees IF Gleyber Torres' face says it all (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The 2019 Yankees season ended with a Game 6 loss in the ALCS Saturday night and it happened in absolutely heartbreaking fashion. After team MVP DJ LeMahieu tied the game in the top of the ninth with a two-run home run Jose Altuve returned the favor with a two-run home run of his own off Aroldis Chapman to send the Astros to the World Series.

Just a week ago it looked like this was going to be the year the Yankees won their first World Series since 2009 and the 28th in franchise history. After a 103 win regular season and a dominant ALDS sweep over the 101-win Minnesota Twins, the Yanks went into Houston for Game 1 and shutout the top-seeded Astros 7-0 to take a 1-0 series lead.

Unlike the 2017 ALCS, the Yankees were finally able to win a game in Houston and gained home-field advantage before the series shifted to New York for Games 3-5. That was still the case even after they suffered another devastating walk-off loss in Game 2 when Carlos Correa hit a walk-off home run to give Houston a 3-2 win in 11 innings to tie the series.

The Yankees had their opportunities to win Game 2 but I’m sure most fans still felt good about their chances heading home to the Bronx. In 2017, the Yanks won all three games at home to take a 3-2 series lead and the Astros looked completely rattled by the stadium crowd and overwhelmed by the moment.

This time around the crowd wasn’t much of a factor as the Astro players didn’t seem fazed at all by the raucous environment. A lot of that was due to the performance by Gerrit Cole who set the tone and continued his historic run by shutting down the Yankee lineup over seven innings in Game 4’s 4-1 win.

In Game 5 the Yankees continued to struggle to come up with the big hit and left 10 men on base and went 0 for 7 with RISP. They also played their worst defensive game of the season making four errors. The Astros on the other end played great defense and made the most of their limited opportunities with RISP thanks to a pair of clutch three-run home runs by Correa and George Springer that helped lead them to an 8-3 win and a commanding 3-1 series lead.

The Yankees showed some fight like they have all season in Game 5 when they jumped out to 4-1 lead in the first inning off Justin Verlander and held onto win by the same score. The win restored hope among Yankee fans that this team could win Game 6 and force the series to a decisive seventh game. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t mean to be.

Even though most of the Yankees bullpen entered Game 6 on Saturday gassed from pitching so much in the first five games they still gave the team a good chance to win game 6, despite being down 3-0 after the first inning. The Yanks chipped away against the Astros pen with an RBI single by Gary Sanchez in the second and a solo home run by Gio Urshela in the fourth to cut the lead to one. However, the offense still couldn’t come up with the big hit with runners on until LeMahieu’s game-tying shot with one out in the ninth.

That could have gone down as one of the biggest home runs in franchise history but sadly we’ll remember this game more for what happened in the bottom of the inning which is a damn shame.

So what went wrong for the Yankees during this ALCS?

You can say all you want about the Yankees starters not pitching deep into games and question why Chapman pitched to Altuve in the ninth with the light hitting Jake Marisnick on deck but the reason why they lost this series was because of the offense. The Astros were the better team but the Yankees let their pitchers off the hook so many times and this series will be remembered for all the missed opportunities.

Outside of LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres and Urshela in Game 6, the Yankees lineup couldn’t get anything going and failed time and time again with runners in scoring position. After leading baseball with a .294 BA with RISP during the regular season the Yanks only hit .171 (6-35) in the ALCS.

Neither time hit well at all during the series as the Yankees actually had the edge over Houston in batting average and total hits but the Astros got the big ones when they needed it and didn’t strike out nearly as much. The Yankees struck out 64 times compared to Houston’s total of 54 and had countless opportunities where all they needed to do was put the ball in play to get a run in.

The offense collectively failed the Yankees during this series but it was the complete lack of production by a handful of key players that really cost them a chance to play the Nationals in the Fall Classic. The biggest culprit had to be DH Edwin Encarnacion who went an abysmal 1-18 with 11 K’s in five games. Gary Sanchez along with Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner, all struggled mightily as well by combining to hit .161 with one HR, four RBI and 25 K’s.

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Aaron Judge hit a big two-run homer off Verlander in Game 2 but he didn’t do much the rest of the series and finished hitting .240 with a homer, two RBI and 10 K’s. His defense was outstanding but he needs to make a bigger impact offensively and drive in more than just two runs during the postseason if the Yankees are ever going to win another World Series.

As for the rest of the lineup, Aaron Hicks did all he could to return from his elbow injury and produced some really good at-bats including a huge three-run homer in the first inning of Game 5. Giancarlo Stanton started the series strong going 2-4 with a home run in Game 1 but he also strained his quad and wasn’t a factor at all the rest of the series.

We at Yanks Go Yard will go more in-depth on the season as a whole and how the Yankees need to improve this offseason in the coming days but for now, we mourn the season coming to an end. It was a magical year up until Saturday night but it will go down as a failure because the team didn’t reach their ultimate goal.

That’s the way it goes with this great franchise but that doesn’t mean we’ll forget what this team was able to accomplish despite all the adversity they faced with injuries over the past eight months. Up until the end, this team was an absolute joy to watch and they never gave up.

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Game 6 was as excruciating a loss as I can remember as a 25-year old die-hard Yankees fan, but the hope is this will only make this group stronger and it will make it that much sweeter when they finally reach the top of the mountain and win number 28.