Yankees Postgame Notebook: Game 7 awaits after a tough loss in Houston
"It's not what you want, but we've come out and bounced back before," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We've won all different kinds of games, and this is a situation our guys have been in a lot. We still have a shot to do what we want to do tomorrow, so put tonight behind you and be ready to go."
Friday's starting pitching matchup was as advertised in the game's first half, as Luis Severino and Justin Verlander matched zeroes through the top of the fifth; the Yankees had a runner on in each of the first four innings but never capitalized, while Severino retired 12 of the first 14 he faced.
"Verlander was really good again. He hasn't been behind in counts and has thrown a ton of strikes in the two starts we've seen him," Girardi said. "I thought our at-bats were decent off him, we hit some balls hard, but he was ahead in the count and pitched really effectively."
Come the bottom of the fifth, Severino walked Alex Bregman to open the inning, then walked Evan Gattis with one out to set the stage for ex-Yankee Brian McCann. Severino got ahead 0-2, but after taking two balls just outside, McCann, who was 0-for-11 in the series to that point, ripped a 98 MPH heater that one-hopped over the right field fence to score Bregman with the first run of the game.
"Obviously we've been waiting for the big hit for a couple of games," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said, "and no better time than for McCann to have a really good at-bat battle, get a pitch he could drive, and then obviously break things open. A good offensive output today, kick-started by him."
Another walk loaded the bases, but after Severino got Josh Reddick to pop out, Jose Altuve finished him off with a two-run single to left that made it 3-0 and gave Altuve his first runs batted in of the series.
"He just lost his command a bit in the fifth there," Girardi said of Severino. "He had pitched up fairly effectively tonight, but he lost it up even a little bit more. It happens, and they took advantage."
"I don't know what happened really, but I didn't do my job, and I should've gotten ahead of the hitters," Severino said. "It's disappointing because I didn't do my job, and it's frustrating because of the walks; if they hit me they hit me, but you don't want to give it to them with the walks."
The Yankees tried to rally in the sixth, getting their first runner into scoring position when Didi Gregorius' two-out single pushed Chase Headley to second, but tying run Gary Sanchez check-swung at a 3-0 pitch and hit a roller to shortstop that Carlos Correa fired to first to end the inning.
One inning later, the Yankees put the first two runners on and it appeared the Yankee Magic might show up, but Houston may have gotten the best near-miss inning of their season instead; Verlander struck out Aaron Hicks to end a 10-pitch at-bat - one where Hicks was ahead 3-0, and narrowly missed a three-run homer just foul - and after George Springer hauled in Todd Frazier's long fly ball with a leaping grab at the center field wall, Verlander got Headley to ground out to second the keep the shutout intact.
"Sanchez was a big moment, then Frazier hits a ball 400 feet and gets nothing to show for it…those two innings were the two innings we had to capitalize and we didn't do it," Girardi said.
"I felt like the 3-1 pitch was outside, so that's why I took it," Hicks added of his at-bat. "Now I have to battle at 3-2 against a very good pitcher, and sometimes it doesn't go your way. If we get that and Frazier still hits the ball to the wall, now it's 3-2, and that can changed the complexion of the game." Aaron Judge crushed a solo homer to dead center in the eighth to break up the shutout, but the Astros finally got to the Yankees bullpen in their half, scoring four runs off David Robertson, and the Yankees' final rally attempt against Ken Giles in the ninth came up empty.
"We had a couple opportunities and didn't come through, and when you get one run on the board you're not going to win games," Frazier said.
And so, the Yankees find themselves in familiar situation with a clear consequence: win Saturday and advance to the World Series, or lose and go home. Something will have to give - Houston is 5-0 at home this postseason, while the Yankees are 4-0 in elimination games - but the Yankees have everyone but Severino and Chad Green available, and Girardi has "a lot of faith" in his stopper, CC Sabathia.
"We've seen it so many times, and we're going to need him to come up big tomorrow. He's done it a couple times this postseason, and we need him to come up big," Girardi said.
Here now are a trio of additional notes and quotes from Game 6:
-Robertson had allowed two runs on six hits in 11 innings this postseason, but allowed four runs on four hits without retiring a batter tonight. Here's the skipper on that hiccup: "I'm sure it just came down to location a little bit. He's a guy who relies on location a lot, and it looked like the pitch he threw Altuve was a really good pitch, Altuve just did a good job and put a good swing on it (for a solo home run)."
-Here's Hinch on Frazier's fly out to the wall: "I thought it was going to leave the yard. That's the deepest part of the yard, and I've seen a lot of balls carry. And I've seen him hit one arm or one-handed swings this series and the ball carry out of the ballpark. As I picked up Springer in center, he was tracking the ball, and usually the outfielders are the first key to tell you whether or not the ball is leaving the yard. If he stayed on the play, I thought he was either desperate or was tracking it down. When he jumped and made the play there was a huge roar. Big momentum play."
-Last word goes to the longest-tenured Yankee, Brett Gardner; he; Robertson, and Sabathia are the only three still around from the 2009 championship team, and this is Gardy on his confidence going into Game 7: "We'd have liked to wrap things up tonight, it just wasn't meant to be. But CC has pitched in a number of big games in his career, and there's nobody we'd rather have on the mound in a big game for us than him. He pitches well for us after we lose; we lost tonight and he's pitching tomorrow, so we'll go out tomorrow night and play as hard as we can, and hopefully things work out."