HOUSTON — In the end, the rotation ran out of gas, the offense ran into problems away from home and Greg Bird just ran too darn slowly.
Add it all up and the Yankees just weren’t good enough to survive another elimination game against a 100-plus win team on the road.
Thus, a year of sweet revitalization ended in sour elimination. The season of “All Rise” fell for good as the third week in October concluded — deeper than expected for the 2017 Yankees, but not far enough for a team that had two shots at Minute Maid Park to barge into the World Series ahead of schedule.
In a moment of reflection there will be satisfaction for where the Yankees began when pitchers and catchers arrived in February and Aaron Judge had to win a right field job and Luis Severino a rotation position and Chad Green a roster spot.
But greed sets in when the Fall Classic is so close and the future — as promising as it may look — is uncertain and far away, whereas the World Series will begin Tuesday. Just without the Yankees trying to win it for the 28th time.
“We had a great season,” GM Brian Cashman said after The End: Astros 4, Yankees 0 in ALCS Game 7. “We had a wild, fun ride. But tonight it hurts because the ride is over.”
The Astros outplayed the Yankees over 18 innings in Games 6-7, excelling in every phase and every way. So, they will go to the World Series for just the second time in their history. They will try to win for the first. The Dodgers will try to capture their first title since 1988.
Aaron Judge makes a leaping catch at the wall in the second inning.Charles Wenzelberg
The Yankees’ attempts to reach the World Series for a 41st time will have to wait. Instead, they will begin an offseason in which the contracts of Cashman and Joe Girardi are up. CC Sabathia, the loser in Game 7, and Todd Frazier are free agents, and Masahiro Tanaka can opt out of his contract.
The core group, though, is mostly prime aged, talented and now October battle tested with Gleyber Torres and other strong prospects on the horizon and — who knows? — maybe Shohei Otani, too. If you were buying stock in a team, the Yanks would not be a bad purchase. But that is now about 2018 and moving forward.
In the present, there is just the sting of opportunity lost after winning three straight in The Bronx to gain a three-games-to-two edge in this ALCS.
But over the last two games, Severino and Sabathia lasted just a combined eight innings. The bullpen — such a powerful force throughout most of the postseason — was pedestrian. The Yankees scored just one run in the final two games and just three in total in four games in Houston in this series, and the Yanks won just once in seven road games in these playoffs.
Bird, a wonderful hitter but a jalopy of a runner, was thrown out twice at the plate in this ALCS, including Saturday night when he was the potential tying run in the top of the fifth; Brian McCann somehow holding onto the ball though Bird snapped his mitt back with a slide.
The Astros blitzed Tommy Kahnle for three runs in the bottom of the inning — two on a two-out double from McCann, who the Yanks traded last offseason to the win-now Astros so they could play Gary Sanchez unimpeded and add two more prospects. But the future was now quicker than anticipated for the Yankees — and the now, as far as 2017, ended Saturday night in a hail of Astro curveballs.
“All of that will come sooner rather than later now,” Cashman said of offseason decisions. “We were hoping to kick the can down the road, but now, obviously, we’re like 28 other clubs. We’re in that pile of ‘what’s next.’ ”
That is because they are not among the two left standing. After winning their first four elimination games of this postseason, including three against the 102-win Indians, notably the decisive Game 5 in Cleveland, the Yankees’ mojo expired. They rallied from 0-2 down in this ALCS against the 101-win Astros. But Justin Verlander and Jose Altuve and a long lineup that just does not strike out much proved too formidable.
“This needs to be a motivating factor for the winter and spring training to get better,” Girardi said of his postgame message to the team.
He added, “There’s more there, there’s more there. That is the motivating factor.”
The 2017 Yankees were a success. In what was mainly supposed to be a year of building, they got back to the playoffs, pulled an upset in the Division Series, inched to the brink of the World Series, re-energized their ballpark and set themselves up for an extended run of excellence. The ruling in the Judge’s Chambers would be positive.
But that will all be in reflection. In the moment — with Los Angeles and the Fall Classic so close — there is only dejection.