Game Five of the ALDS was billed as “win-or-go-home” for the New York Yankees, and for the 11th straight season, they will be going home without having reached their ultimate goal. The Tampa Bay Rays came out on top in Game Five, advancing to the ALDS on the heels of a 2-1 victory, fueled by a late home run and a dominant team pitching performance. The Yankees have been eliminated.
Gerrit Cole got the start for the Yankees on short rest, and although he had an inauspicious first inning, he more than held up his end of the bargain. Cole was not sharp in the first, loading the bases on two walks and a hit by pitch, but he got out of it by striking out Joey Wendle on a 97 mph fastball. After that, however, he was dominant, accumulating seven strikeouts in his first three innings.
Although he was pitching on just two days’ rest, the Yankees couldn’t take advantage of Tyler Glasnow. He was still hitting 100 mph, and made it one whole trip through the order without allowing a hit. He walked two Yankees, but overall did his job. After three innings, neither team had a hit yet.
Enter Aaron Judge.
Leading off the fourth inning, Judge pounced on a four-seamer, and it muscled out into the right field seats to give the Yankees the 1-0 lead. Judge didn’t even get all of it, but his raw power carried the ball out. Although Judge had been having a somewhat quiet postseason, he was clutch when the Yankees’ backs were against the wall. With the dinger, he tied Moose Skowron as the only players in MLB history to have hit home runs in three different winner-take-all games.
Unfortunately, the Yankees had nothing else to say at bat, which left the game a precarious 1-0 entering the fifth inning. The Rays finally squared something up off Cole, when Austin Meadows took him deep on a 1-1 fastball and tied the game. New York had a chance to take the lead right back the next inning when Aaron Hicks singled and Giancarlo Stanton walked, but Peter Fairbanks got out of it by whiffing Luke Voit on 100 mph high cheese.
The Yankees brought Cole back out for the sixth, with noted Yankees killer Randy Arozarena up. Cole was at 93 pitches, but it was the right call to leave the team’s best pitcher in against the Rays’ best hitter with the season on the line. For a few seconds though, things looked scary. Cole hung a knuckle curve, and Arozarena drove it 363 feet deep to left.
Unfortunately for him, he would have needed to hit it 365 feet to get it over the head of Brett Gardner:
IT'S GOING, IT'S GOING, IT'S....CAUGHT pic.twitter.com/zZlO2JC2l5— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 10, 2020
Even if that is one of the last things Brett Gardner does in a New York Yankees uniform, it should easily go down as one of his best. Improbably, it remained a 1-1 game going into the seventh.
Aaron Boone shifted into ultra-aggressive bullpen management mode after he removed Cole. He brought in Zack Britton in the sixth to face Ji-Man Choi and the heart of the Rays’ order after Cole retired Arozarena, and then called on Aroldis Chapman to aid in the seventh inning when Brandon Lowe came up with a runner on first and two outs. It seemed early for Chapman at first, but it comes down to this: who else would you rather have out there to face the Rays’ two best hitters with the season on the line? Chapman got out of the inning with a four-pitch strikeout, and kept it tied 1-1 going into the eighth.
The problem was, the Yankees’ offense wasn’t making any noise either. Diego Castillo worked through the top of the Yankees’ order in the eighth, giving the Rays’ 3-4-5 hitters a shot against Chapman.
Chapman set down Arozarena, and then faced his old nemesis, Michael Brosseau. The closer got ahead quickly, and fired what appeared to be strike three on a breaking ball that bit the corner, but umpire Marvin Hudson called it a ball. Six pitches later, Brosseau ran the count full, battling off triple-digit fastballs and looping sliders, before effectively ending the Yankees’ season with a shot deep into the night on a 100 mph Chapman fastball. The dinger gave the Rays a 2-1 lead, and pushed the Yankees to the brink of another early elimination.
In the ninth, the Yankees were hushed yet again by the Rays’ fireballing bullpen. Castillo froze Stanton on a five-pitch strikeout, took care of Voit in four pitches, and Gio Urshela made the final out of the season on a frozen rope to third base that Wendle snared on the fly. Urshela’s liner was 109 mph and had an expected batting average of .690, but the actual batting average is all that matters tonight, and on that play, it was .000.
That closes the books on yet another Yankees season. This one was unlike any other, but the fact of the matter is that the Yankees’ contention window is four years down the drain with zero World Series appearances. What can they do to change that? We’ll have the next four months to discuss. Meanwhile, the Rays will go on to the American League Championship Series, where they’ll take on the Houston Astros for the right to represent the AL in the World Series.
Thanks for hanging with us all year. We’ll have a lot more to come soon.