The Yankees appeared to wrest control of the ALCS by winning all three home games in convincing fashion. New York headed to Houston only needing to win one of two in order to advance to their 41st World Series. But the Astros had other plans.
After Justin Verlander won his second game of the series in Game Six, the Yankees and their fans still had to feel good about their pennant hopes. Stopper CC Sabathia was starting the decisive game for New York in a rematch versus Charlie Morton, who Yankee hitters had roughed up for seven earned runs on six hits in Game Three. But the youngster redeemed himself by outdueling the veteran tonight, propelling the Astros to their first World Series since moving to the American League.
Morton out-pitched Sabathia right out of the gate. He retired the side in order in the top of the first, pitched around a Gary Sanchez lead-off single in the second, and set the Yankees down in order in both the third and fourth.
Houston's starter needed a big assist from his defense in the fifth inning and they obliged. With the Yankees trailing 1-0, Greg Bird led off with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch. After Aaron Hicks walked with one out, Bird attempted to score on Todd Frazier's groundball. But third baseman Alex Bregman gunned him out, and the Yankees failed to tie the game. Chase Headley stranded Hicks and Frazier when he grounded out to end the inning. It was the Yankees best scoring opportunity of the night, gone by the wayside.
Sabathia pitched into and out of trouble in both the second and third innings. He was aided by a fantastic play by Aaron Judge, who ran back to the right-field wall and made a leaping catch to rob Yuli Gurriel of a home run to lead off the second.
The Astros finally broke through against CC in the fourth when Evan Gattis led off with homer to left-center. Then Brian McCann walked, Marwin Gonzalez grounded into a force out, and Josh Reddick singled to drive the lefty from the game. Tommy Kahnle came on and got George Springer to ground into an inning-ending double play to end that threat.
But Kahnle wasn't as sharp when he came back out for the fifth. Jose Altuve hit a one-out homer to give the Astros a 2-0 lead. Carlos Correa and Gurriel hit back-to-back singles, and following an Evan Gattis strikeout, McCann doubled them both home.
The Yankees' offense never really threatened after the fifth inning. They got only two baserunners in the final four frames, neither of whom advanced as far as second base.
Give the Astros credit. They won a pair of pitching duels to begin this series, got swept in the middle three at Yankee Stadium, but rebounded to dominate New York in the final two at Minute Maid Park to earn a date with the Dodgers in the World Series.
Although tonight's loss is surely disappointing for Yankee fans at the moment, it shouldn't diminish the exciting manner in which the team got this far. Nor does the season finale erase the great things we watched the Yankees accomplish this year. Remember, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year, and the Bombers made it all the way to Game Seven of the ALCS.
The Yankees have a lot of talented young players who will only get better. Perhaps someday we will look back at the Yankees' 2017 campaign in the same way that we view the 1995 season: as a stepping stone to something great.