Sunday, October 22, 2017

It's Not Over, It's Only The Beginning...

Credit:  NY Post: Anthony J Causi
American League Championship Series
Astros 4, Yankees 0...
Astros win series, 4-3

"The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow."
--Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Sure, it was very disappointing to see the Yankees come so close to making the Fall Classic but the future is so bright for this young Yankees team. This is only the beginning of the wonderful ride they are embarking upon and we'd better hold on tight because it's going to be one helluva ride. I am very proud of the accomplishments of the 2017 New York Yankees.  They achieved far more than anyone expected and are only setting themselves up for loftier heights as we advance forward.  Congratulations, Yankees!  Thumbs down, you are an incredible group of ultra-talented players and you are champions to us.

You have to give credit to the Houston Astros. They earned home-field advantage by winning 101 games over the regular season and it positioned them for success in a series dominated by the home teams. On Saturday night, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers, Jr held the Yankees to three hits and no runs to send the Astros to their first World Series since 2005 and only their second overall.  

I was afraid that it would be asking a lot for CC Sabathia to be the savior for Game 7. I know that he had been undefeated in his role as a stopper following Yankee losses this year but this game obviously had heightened magnitude. With no offense to Sonny Gray, the Yankees paid a very high price to get him and this should have been his spot to be the team's post-season savior. He may ultimately have a fantastic Yankees career but he was a non-factor this post-season.  

After trading scoreless frames to open the game, Houston's Yuli Gurriel lined a shot to right that looked like it had a chance to clear the wall. Aaron Judge, on the run, leaped up to make a terrific catch to deny Gurriel.  

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images
I was hopeful that it was a sign for great things to come. Unfortunately, it was not.  

The Astros, getting at least a single each inning against Sabathia, finally broke through in the 4th inning. Evan Gattis led off the bottom of the inning with a powerful home run to left center. Sabathia walked Brian McCann on a full count.  Marwin Gonzalez hit a grounder to short which Didi Gregorius zipped to Starlin Castro to force McCann, but they were unable to turn the double play. Josh Reddick singled to left and Manager Joe Girardi had seen enough. He went to the mound to take the ball from Sabathia, perhaps for the last time in either individual's Yankees career. Enter Tommy Kahnle who quickly induced George Springer, on one pitch, to ground into an inning-ending double play, short to second to first.

The top of the 5th brought a great chance for the Yankees. Greg Bird led off with a double to the right field corner. Starlin Castro was next but he struck out. With Aaron Hicks at the plate, a wild pitch on ball four allowed Bird to fly to third and Hicks to take first. Runners at the corners and one out for Todd Frazier. Frazier hit a chopper to third baseman Alex Bregman and Yankees third base coach Joe Espada made the decision to send Bird home. It would take a perfect throw to nail Bird at the plate. Sadly for us, that's exactly what happened. Bregman's throw to Brian McCann could not have been any better and McCann easily applied the tag on Bird's foot. 

Credit:  Ronald Martinez-Getty Images
Chase Headley grounded out to second and it was an inning of missed opportunity for the Yankees.  

The Yankees lack of scoring hurt as the Astros padded their lead in the bottom of the 5th. With Tommy Kahnle still on the mound for the Yankees, Jose Altuve blasted a one-out home run to right (too high for Judge to make another leaping catch). Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel followed with singles to put runners at the corners. Kahnle struck out Evan Gattis for the second out, but then Brian McCann doubled to the corner in right, scoring both Correa and Gurriel. Girardi pulled the plug on Kahnle and brought in Adam Warren to get the final out.  The Astros had increased their lead to 4-0.

The Astros made a pitching change for the top of the 6th. Lance McCullers, Jr was brought in to replace Charlie Morton who had held the Yanks to two hits.  Brett Gardner greeted McCullers with a single to left down the line and there was optimism that the Yankees could get back into the game. The optimism started to dissipate as McCullers retired the next three batters end the inning. Gardy's hit was the last one that McCullers, who finished the game, would allow.  

The Yankees went down quietly in the 9th and when Greg Bird's fly to center was caught by George Springer, their season was over. As the Astros celebrated on the field and later in the clubhouse, the Yankees could only gather their things and begin preparations for the flight home to New York City.  

Credit:  Ronald Martinez-Getty Images
Last year, the Los Angeles Dodgers watched the Chicago Cubs celebrate on Wrigley Field turf when the Cubs won the NLCS to advance to the World Series. They remembered that feeling and it helped fuel them to the NL Championship this year and a role as the host for Game 1 of the 2017 World Series. I am hopeful that the Yankees take the same sense of disappointment to fuel their hopes and aspirations for the 2018 season.  

Hopefully, the Steinbrenner Family moves quickly to re-sign both GM Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi so that the team can begin its off-season planning to bring the 2018 championship back to the Bronx.  

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images
As always, Go Yankees!

Odds & Ends...

Friday, I was surprised when the Washington Nationals fired manager Dusty Baker. Yesterday, I was equally surprised when the San Francisco Giants dismissed Dave Righetti as the team's pitching coach. Righetti, the former Yankees closer, was the longest tenured pitching coach in the Major Leagues, having served under three managers since 2000. During that time, Rags was part of three World Championships.  Righetti, a Bay Area native, will remain in the Giants organization as a special assistant to GM Bobby Evans. Righetti is one of the most respected pitching coaches in the game but I guess the age-old question 'what have you done for me lately?' gets the best of us. Rags is too good not to get another opportunity elsewhere if he wants it.

Credit:  Brian Rothmuller-Icon Sportswire
The Chicago Cubs fired their pitching coach (Chris Bosio) too. Bosio had held the position since 2012 and he's fresh off a World Series Championship from last season. I guess those three home runs by Kik√© Hernandez last week to send the Los Angeles Dodgers to the World Series and the Cubs home for the holidays were Bosio's fault.  

It sounds as though the Boston Red Sox will be offering a three-year deal to Astros bench coach Alex Cora to be their new manager. Cora will most likely accept once the World Series is over. The initial reaction from my Red Sox friends is lukewarm but I think Cora is a sound option for the Sox. For Cora, it will be about the right coaching hires to help him succeed. He will already have a strong team in place and he'll be gaining front row World Series experience this year.  

I will watch the World Series with interest. As a former resident of Los Angeles, it's hard not to cheer for the Dodgers. They've been my favorite NL team, despite my love for the Yankees. So, I'll be rooting for Blue and hoping they send the Astros home with saddened faces.

Have a great Sunday! Remember the magic of the 2017 Yankees and dream of the potential for the 2018 club. Go Yankees!

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