The Yankees and Rays met tonight for the deciding Game Five of the ALDS, and the result was modern baseball at its max. Both teams throwing out pitcher after pitcher that could light up the radar gun and buckle knees with breathtaking sliders. Each lineup featuring disciplined, smart hitters that give nothing away. Home runs and strikeouts powering both sides. If not always the most aesthetically-pleasing brand of baseball, it was certainly well-fought, tightly-contested, and most of all dramatic.
The Yankees grabbed an early lead, and it looked for a while that they might carry it through to the promised land. But the Rays clawed back and gained the advantage late, and the Yankee bats fell dormant.
The line between success and failure in the playoffs is at times imperceptible. One ball-or-strike call, one fortuitous bounce, or even one unfamiliar right field wall can be the difference between a parade and a quiet plane ride home.
The Yankees just barely ended up on the wrong side of that line tonight. Any number of minuscule things change, and they could’ve ended up victorious and on to the ALCS to face the Astros yet again. Instead, it’s one more heartbreaking playoff defeat. The end of a surreal, unprecedented season has come to painfully familiar end.
Winner of the Game
Gerrit Cole battled all night. Starting on three days’ rest, the Yankees’ ace clearly wasn’t at his sharpest, fighting wildness at times, and putting himself right into a bases-loaded jam in the first inning. But he fought, pounding the zone enough after a shaky start to emerge from the first four innings unscathed. A fifth-inning solo shot from Austin Meadows proved the only blemish on Cole’s line, which featured nine strikeouts and just one hit across 5.1 innings.
When Cole settled in during the second through fourth frames, he looked unhittable. He touched 100 mph on the gun and pumped heater after heater past the Rays:
Gerrit Cole, Painting With Flames. pic.twitter.com/fzpTgcqk5L— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 10, 2020
Ultimately, Cole wasn’t at his best, and thus wasn’t able to go deep into the game as I’m sure he desired. Given the circumstances, a must-win playoff game on short rest against a great team, Cole’s performance was still almost everything we could’ve asked for.
Coming up big with a solo homer of his own was Aaron Judge, as the slugger looked to come out of a slump:
I'll be up up and away, up up and away. #AllRise pic.twitter.com/KgPOzqMY3M— New York Yankees (@Yankees) October 10, 2020
Yet that was the Yankees only scoring of the game. It wasn’t enough.
Loser of the Game
The Yankee lineup had not been a problem one bit through the first six games of the playoffs. On this pivotal night, however, things finally went sideways. Facing a dynamite Rays staff, the Yankees’ bats went quiet at just the wrong time. They managed a mere three hits, and rarely threatened throughout the game.
While the Yankees lost this game primarily because they scored one run, this did mark the second consecutive season that came to a close with a homer that Aroldis Chapman allowed. He’s no more at fault than a starting nine that couldn’t score twice, but Chapman obviously deserves mention for the game-winning homer he yielded to Mike Brosseau.