Bronx, NY: Aroldis Chapman threw a slider to Jose Altuve Saturday night in Houston in the ninth inning and again the Houston Astros for the second time in three years denied the Yankees another World Series opportunity. As epic as that entire inning transpired the blame should not be put on Chapman for this Yankees loss.
As much as Yankees manager Aaron Boone is a deserving AL Manager of The Year, and gets a vote here, that home run and bullpen game also indicates that championship games in October are won by starters and not the relief pitching.
Yes, this was a Game 6. A bullpen game and one that is becoming more often, a script followed by managers and the front office that has been successful with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Except in the postseason, and as the Yankees are aware, you can expect more when a valuable starter opens a game. Bullpens were used in this ALCS and often. The Yankees did not get the results and the agenda now will be for GM Brian Cashman to go shopping or use the trade to secure a rotation so that a bullpen does not lose another and pivotal game.
So you can hear all the opinions as to why Chapman threw a slider and not a high leveled fastball. You can analyze as to why the manager opted for Chapman to face Altuve, instead of issuing the walk.
And you can question the strategy of pitching to Altuve, who has a history of postseason dramatics and not having Chapman face Jake Marisnick the on-deck next at bat.
You can debate this was an analytical move as baseball has become that numbers game. And you can speculate if that walk-off home run from Altuve does not happen, if the Yankees win Game 6, would they have got past Gerit Cole in a deciding Game 7? Cole, of course, has been the most dominant pitcher of the postseason and has not lost a game since mid May.
This was a Yankees loss that will linger for a long time. It was also a loss that adds more questions as to why they have not been able to reach another World Series since their last one in 2009.
Their drought to take it all continues and because the Yankees play to take it all, they will wait another year and needs to get there are obvious.
It will be up to the GM and hierarchy to get a valuable starter, whether it be Cole or, Zack Wheeler who will opt for free agency from the cross-town Mets.
But using seven pitchers as a way to win a must game is not the way to win another American League pennant. Though, the Astros this time were successful with their bullpen plan and won’t go that route when a pitching World Series begin tomorrow night in Houston with the Washington Nationals.
So don’t blame Aroldis Chapman as to why the Yankees are not hosting another World Series in the Bronx Tuesday night. And forgive that smile on the mound after the home run ball that was obviously not one of celebrations in that category of bewilderment.
Chapman did not go with his instincts on that home run pitch to Altuve. The slider that got away, and if he could speak willingly would probably say the pitch came from the book of analytics.
But the game of baseball has changed. Pitchers and those at bats are the game as analytics is taking over more and more.
Aaron Boone went with a roster that was obviously not the one to get the Yankees where they want to be in October. And one look at the Yankees failure to score is enough evidence, 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and leaving 8 on base in Game 6.
You can’t win during the season, or for that matter an LCS, with that failure to drive in runs with runners on base. The Yankees did that often in six games and there were too many swings at first pitches that went for outs when they should have taken more and they should have allowed the pitcher to work.
Again, perhaps it was the calls from the analytic department that left Austin Romine and Cameron Maybin on the bench. But Gary Sanchez, Edwin Encarnacion, Didi Gregorious, they could not get the big hit as they did during a 103 win regular season and Al East division title.
So again, don’t blame Aroldis Chapman for throwing the wrong pitch and maybe his last one as a Yankee as he is expected to opt out of a contract.
“It’s the ultimate pain you can feel in sports,” said Boone about the heartbreaking loss, one of the top three in Yankees history. “I know how good of a club we are.”
But not good enough to overtake the Astros again. It will be an interesting offseason and plenty of decisions to be made as the Yankees once again watch the Astros, their latest nemesis, seek a second World Series championship in three years.
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