HOUSTON — In a clubhouse so quiet you heard the shower water hit the floor down the hall, the Yankees talked about next year shortly after this one ended in heartbreak and disappointment.
“We are all excited for next year,’’ Aaron Judge said after the Yankees failed to win one of the final two ALCS games and advance to the World Series.
Long before the Yankees gather for spring training they will have a bitter winter to chew on after missing a golden opportunity that started to slip away on Friday night and vanished on Saturday evening when the Astros beat them, 4-0, in Game 7 of the ALCS in front of 43,201 at Minute Maid Park.
Needing one victory in two games to face the Dodgers in the World Series, the Yankees failed in Games 6 and 7. Luis Severino imploded on the mound in Game 6 and the Yankee bats were dead not only in the final two games but in the first two under the roof in Houston.
“I don’t know. I mean, again, it’s a team that hasn’t experienced a lot of this in a sense and going on the road in hostile environments,’’ Joe Girardi said of his club that got two hits off Charlie Morton and one off Lance McCullers Jr. in Game 7. “We were able to win Game 5 in Cleveland, and I felt good about us winning one game here. But we just weren’t able to do it. You’ve got to give them credit. They pitched their rear ends off. And the bottom line is they beat us.’’
The Yankees scored three runs in four games in Houston, batted a woeful .159 (20-for-126) and were 2-for-16 (.125) with runners in scoring position.
Greg Bird is thrown out at the plate in the fifth inning.Charles Wenzelberg
Their best chance to score a run was snuffed out in the fifth inning when Greg Bird broke from third on Todd Frazier’s chopper to third baseman Alex Bregman, who fired home to get Bird. After McCullers took over for Morton in the sixth, the Yankees got two runners on base and they never got to second.
CC Sabathia, who denied he was hit by the cold bug that worked its way into the Yankees’ clubhouse but sounded stuffed up, allowed a run and five hits in 3 ¹/₃ innings.
“I wasn’t sharp and they came out aggressive swinging the bats,’’ said Sabathia, who added he would like to return to the Yankees but is a free agent, so it’s possible Saturday night was it for the 37-year-old lefty. “We came up short and I wasn’t sharp tonight.’’
Tommy Kahnle replaced Sabathia and fed George Springer an inning-ending double play in the fourth, but gave up three runs in the fifth that provided the Astros with a 4-0 lead that looked like 40-0.
After the bitter loss, Girardi gathered his players and told them there was nothing to hang their heads about.
“How proud I was of them. How this hurts. I understand, I’ve been through it as a player. I’ve been through it as a manager,’’ Girardi said of his talk. “And how it really needs to be the motivating factor during the winter and spring training to get better. Because I believe this club can even get better. And that was basically the message.’’
Sabathia was impressed with Girardi.
“That this was a great team, a fun team, a young team that will be back in this position,’’ Sabathia said of Girardi’s message. “We have nothing to hang our heads about, but it’s tough. We will be better for it.’’
Maybe, maybe not because there are no promises in any sport on any level.
“We had a great year but it fell short. There has been a lot of joy but the down side is that you got to be in it to win it,’’ said general manager Brian Cashman, who like Girardi and all the coaches isn’t signed for next year. “We were in it, unfortunately we didn’t win it.’’