Well that was a huge bummer. The Yankees went out of the postseason as sadly and quietly as they entered it, getting shut out and 3-hit at home in the Wild Card game by Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros. The bats never showed up, Tanaka’s home run problem was front and center again, and the Astros will advance to play Kansas City in the ALDS while the Yankees will go home and start preparing for next year.
This was the biggest start to date for Masahiro Tanaka and he came out looking pretty good. His fastball was lively and popping the glove and he threw a lot of good, tight sliders in a 1-2-3 1st inning with 2 strikeouts. Colby Rasmus came up to lead off the top of the 2nd and hit the first pitch he saw DEEP into right for a solo home run. It was a fastball meant for the outside corner that ended up about thigh high on the inside corner and Rasmus was all over it. 1-0 Houston.
That homer seemed to rattle Tanaka a bit, and he labored through a busy 2nd. George Springer doubled to start the 3rd, but Tanaka stranded him with 3 big outs and appeared to be settling back in. Then Carlos Gomez came up to lead off the top of the 4th and he hit the first pitch he saw out to left center field for a solo home run. It was a classic cement mixer slider, starter belt high, middle and stayed there. Terrible pitch, 2-0 Houston.
Those 2 runs were all Houston would get against Tanaka, who was finished after 5, but it was more than enough for their ace Dallas Keuchel. He put the Yankee hitters in a diaper for the third time this season, twirling 6 shutout innings with 1 walk and 3 strikeouts. Where Tanaka missed way off the corners and left meatballs out over the plate, Keuchel nicked the corners for called strikes and kept the ball out of the good parts of the hitting zone. He got some help from home plate umpire Eric Cooper, which was to be expected, but Keuchel didn’t need any help. He absolutely overwhelmed the Yankee lineup.
The one time he did get into a bit of potential trouble was the 6th, when Didi Gregorius hit a leadoff single and Carlos Beltran singled with 2 outs to bring Alex Rodriguez to the plate for a third time. Houston manager AJ Hinch came out to talk to Keuchel, who said what his manager needed to hear to stay in the game and rewarded that faith by getting A-Rod to fly out harmlessly to center on a first-pitch cutter. That was the best and only real good scoring chance the Yankees had all night and it lasted about 75 seconds, including mound visit.
Joe went with his best bullpen arms after pulling Tanaka, which was the only decision to make in what should have been a close 2-run game. Justin Wilson got all 3 in the 6th and Luis Valbuena to ground out to start the 7th and that was it for him. Joe went to Dellin Betances for the real heavy lifting and Betances responded by walking Chris Carter on 5 pitches. The Astros put their bench to work, pinch running Jonathan Villar and having him steal second base to put a runner in scoring position. With 2 outs, Jose Altuve came up and just put the bat on an 0-1 curveball enough to dink it out into left field and score Villar. It was a big insurance run and there was nothing Betances’ followup 3-K 8th inning could do to change that.
The bats went weakly in the 8th and 9th. 6 up, 6 down, no balls out of the infield. At least Jacoby Ellsbury got to pinch hit. You wouldn’t want to waste that bullet after letting Gardner put up a silver sombrero. Bah. Continue reading Wild Card Game Recap: Astros 3 Yankees 0