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The Yankees’ Nearly Teams: Part 4

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Two brutal World Series losses, and two years known for, uh, other things highlight the last part of our look at the Yankees’ championship near misses.

World Series GM6 X

For the past couple weeks, we here at Pinstripe Alley have been running our Champions Series, profiling the 27 World Series winning teams in Yankees’ history.

Those 27 teams are far from the only notable ones in franchise history, so as companion pieces, I’ve been looking at some of the teams that came brutally close to adding to that total. (Here is part one, and part two, and part three.) As we continue to go through the championship winners, here is a look at four more teams that nearly got there too.

2001

Not a ton needs to be said on how close the ‘01 Yankees got to adding to the franchise’s World Series tally.

After coming back from down 0-2 on the road to upset the 102-win A’s in the ALDS, the Yankees dispatched the 116-win Mariners to reach their fourth straight Fall Classic. It got off to a rocky start though, as they fell behind at the start of the World Series. Arizona smoked them by a combined score of 13-1 to take a 2-0 lead.

However, New York won Game 3 behind the pitching of Roger Clemens and Mariano Rivera, and Games 4 and 5 of the 2001 World Series will go down in Yankees’ lore forever for their ninth-inning rallies and extra-innings walk-offs on back-to-back nights. Thanks to those two wins, the Yankees went from potentially going down 3-1 or 3-2, to taking a 3-2 lead as the series shifted back to Arizona.

A win in Game 6 was never in the cards, as Arizona struck early and often, clobbering a pitch-tipping Andy Pettitte and leaving it to a winner-take-all Game 7. Yankee fans who remember this game will forever have it burned into their memories, but after Alfonso Soriano’s late homer, they had the lead going into the bottom of the ninth with Rivera on the mound, which is pretty much all you can ask for. Of course, a couple hard hits from Mark Grace and Tony Womack sandwiched around an uncharacteristic Rivera error to tie the game, and Luis Gonzalez won the series for the Diamondbacks in one of the most brutal blows in Yankees’ history.

Considering that the game was tied going into the bottom of the ninth in 1960, this remains the only time the Yankees have lost a World Series from a winning position in the final inning of a Game 7.

2003

The 2001 loss was the end of that Yankees’ dynasty era in a lot of respects, but 2003 well and truly ended it.

After a 101-win regular season, the Yankees won an unforgettable seven-game ALCS over the rival Red Sox on the back of Aaron Boone’s pennant-winning homer. They were then set to face the 91-win Wild Card Marlins in the 2003 World Series. Despite a Game 1 loss, the series started well enough, as the Yankees went up 2-1, and then rallied in the ninth to send Game 4 to extra innings in Miami.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t take advantage, and lost that game in the 12th when Joe Torre let the struggling Jeff Weaver throw the game’s decisive final pitch to Alex Gonzalez, missing out on a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Instead, the Marlins tied it all up and rattled off another two victories to win the series, 4-2.

2004

It’s a real shame that MLB decided to mysteriously cancel the rest of the season after the Yankees went up 3-0 on the Red Sox in the ALCS. I guess we’ll never know why that happened or how that season would’ve ended...

2017

The final and most recent addition to this list is also one of the most frustrating in some ways.

The season seemed a bit magical when the new-look Baby Bomber Yankees of Aaron Judge and company rallied from down 0-2 to win the ALDS over Cleveland. Then, after falling down 2-0 to the Astros in the ALCS, the Yankees won three consecutive games at home, needing one win in two games in Houston to go to their first World Series since 2009. They lost those two games, as the Astros advanced to and later won the Fall Classic.

That just seemed like an unfortunate loss until the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal dropped in November 2019. That salt in the wound took the ALCS loss from a mere bummer into a situation of genuine frustration and anger at not knowing how that series would’ve played out otherwise.