– Scott Goodwin
The New York Yankees lost to the younger, more athletic and lesser compensated Houston Astros in the AL Wild Card Game by a score of 3 – 0. The sold out crowd roared throughout the opening frame as Yankee’s ace Masahiro Tanaka aimed strike after strike at the Houston batters. Vinny Milano, the leader of the Bleacher Creatures clearly had a rough time leading his traditional roll call. He added an absent C.C. Sabathia to the call, the pitcher departed from the team on Monday to enter an alcohol rehab clinic.
Houston pitcher Dallas Keuchel threw an outstanding game holding the bombers to three unutilized base hits. There was an expectation that the Houston ace would struggle on the grand stage. He is a jaw dropping 15-0 at Minute Maid Park, all eight of his loses came on the road. The young pitcher rose to the occasion and shut out the Yankees over six innings allowing three hits and a walk while striking out seven batters.
The cheers of hopeful fans were silenced by Colby Rasmus connecting with Tanka’s first pitch of the 2nd inning. He sent a towering homerun ball into the stadium’s 200 level, groaning fans already knew the team was in trouble. The Yanks desperately needed a quick response from their lineup but the offensive slump continued. Both the Yankees and Astros rolled through the early part of the season but struggled to finish it out post trade deadline. The Astros are a team with a lot of swinging power, they typically do not rack up hits or fill the bases with runners. Tanaka pitched a great game but he paid a heavy price trying to get ahead in the count using first pitch fastballs. The Japanese sensation has not looked himself since coming back from surgery, he threw unbelievable games early in the season.
The Yankees are weighed down by expensive contracts signed by seasoned veterans, most of them have several years to go. It’s hard to get excited about future seasons when you attempt to forecast a young and productive lineup. There are so many players that are cemented into this lineup because of the money they are owed. Sabathia, Headley, Gardner and Beltran all come to mind with Carlos on the forgiving side of the list due to his late season productivity.
Beltran is a flyswatter, his athletic days are in the past, hitting power keeps him on this team. Chris Young is an agile defensive player forced to ride the bench and watch Beltran struggle to make a plays in right field. Headley is typically at the bottom of the order, he was brought aboard for his defensive skill. The top part of the Yankees lineup features the table setters, Brett Gardener and Jacoby Elsburry have had no production towards the end of the season. Gardner received the infamous Bronx cheers when he struck out for the third time of the night on Tuesday. This is what the front office will need to think about during the offseason. These are your most critical players going forward, they are the workhorses of the team. These men need to get on base to maximize the scoring that comes with a Rodriguez or Beltran at-bat. Teixeira’s leg injury was a big blow that the Yankees could not afford, he was in the middle of an MVP ballot season.
It was particularly aggravating to see Rodriguez struggle against Keuchel, usually accountable for a solo shot in these spotlight games. A big question for next year is the amount of production he can bring to the table. He made 2014/2015 season such a wild ride, fans craved the energy and production he brought to the Yankees in the middle of a changing era.
The Yankees future depends on management of the young talent that is developing at a very quick pace. Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Luis Severino are key to the success of the Yankees’ youth movement. Will Joe Girardi be back to lead the team next season? The manager pulled out all the stops on Tuesday making a bold decision with management to bench a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury. When the team got behind Girardi called upon Dellin Betances in the seventh inning to limit further damage. The Astros relentlessly fouled off balls and battled in their at bats putting Jose Altuve in position to hit-in the insurance run. Giradi made all efforts to revive the disastrous offense except for picking up a bat to voluntarily pinch hit.
It was a great ride for the New York Yankees, they performed at a level that was way outside of any expert’s expectations. Once again we sit through another offseason pondering the solution to a problem that is too big and too far outside of our own control.
– Scott Goodwin (@ScottEGoodwin)