The Astros beat the Yankees last night to win the ALCS 4 games to 2 and go to the World Series. And it was a pretty crazy game!
The Astros’ strength all season long has been their hitting and their starting pitching. Their defense is pretty good, and their relief pitching has been anywhere from OK to pretty good. The Yankees have also been great at hitting, but their bullpen is also great. (their defense is also pretty good and their starting pitching has been good but not great)
Knowing this, the fact that Game 6 was a “bullpen game” for both teams meant that the Yankees had an advantage on paper. See, the Astros have 2 amazing starting pitches (Verlander and Cole) and 1 very good one (Greinke). But in the postseason you need four starting pitchers, and the late season collapse of Wade Miley (very good until September; terrible thereafter) meant that the Astros didn’t have a great option, so they decided to use a bunch of relief pitchers in the game. Usually you hope for a starting pitcher to go 6 or 7 innings; tonight the Astros’ first pitcher went 1 2/3 innings. The Yankees have similar issues, but as I mentioned their relief pitching is better.
The Astros took a 3-0 lead in the first inning off a Yuli Gurriel home run (while I was putting a kid to bed so I couldn’t watch ), then the Yankees chipped away at the lead until going into the bottom of the 8th inning the Astros were up 4-2. At this point the best two pitchers the Yankees had left were Zack Britton, who is very good, and Aroldis Champan, who is their usual closer and very very good.
To me, it seemed obvious that Chapman should be pitching the bottom of the 8th. The Yankees needed to keep the game as close as possible because they only had one more inning to get back in it, so there doesn’t seem to be any point to “saving” Chapman for if the Yankees happened to tie or take the lead in the 9th. Also Chapman hasn’t pitched a lot this postseason and can go 2 innings. But they put Britton in, and he ended up in a bases-loaded situation with two outs before getting a pinch hitter out to escape the inning.
In the top of the 9th the Astros brought in their closer Roberto Osuna, who has been very good all season long. I swear I thought to myself that it would be ironic if Osuna had a problem here after the Astros doing well with using a bunch of less-good relievers in weird situations the rest of the game. And lo and behold, after a walk and a strikeout DJ LeMahieu hit a home run to tie the game. I was watching the game on my phone in bed, and the Hulu app lagged a bit and then reconnected just in time for the ball to go over the wall, and for a minute I wondered “did that really just happen?”. George Springer was in right field and came really really close to catching the ball, but no dice. (looking at the replay I don’t think he actually could have caught it, it was just inches past where he was reaching…)
Osuna managed to not meltdown and got out of the rest of the inning, so the Astros went to the bottom of the 9th tied with their 8-9-1 hitters coming up. (so their two worst hitters were up first and second) Because of the seemingly questionable decision earlier, now Aroldis Chapman could come in for the Yankees. Also, the Astros were down to only a few relief pitchers so the prospect of going to extra innings seemed grim. After two quick outs, Springer got a walk, and Jose Altuve came to the plate. Jake Marisnick was up after him, and he was put in as a defensive replacement because he’s not a good hitter. But Altuve hit a home run to left field, Astros win 6-4!