“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” describes one of the most quoted literary lines ever written. Such was the case in the 2019 ALCS.
Fans of Major League Baseball had the matchup they anticipated. Both the Yankees and Astros dominated the American League from the first pitch this season. MLB executives dreamed of another exciting seven-game classic as they had witnessed in 2017.
Both teams did not display the offensive talent that saw each of them finish in the top three in runs and OPS during the regular season. Houston hit just .179 for the series, while the Yankees had four regulars bat under .150. After combining to average 11.5 runs a game during the regular season, they scored 7.1 in the ALCS.
However, despite all the offensive futility in the series, both teams treated fans to a ninth-inning they will never forget.
YANKEES POSTSEASON FAILURES, HOUSTON SUCCESSES
In one corner stood the Yankees, who fought off Justin Verlander in keeping their season alive in Game 5. Getting back to the Fall Classic is a rite of passage for the Bronx Bombers. At least it was. New York risked failing to appear at least once in a decade if they could not rally to win the series. The last time the Yankees went a full decade without reaching the World Series was 100 years ago during the decade that saw the United States fight in World War I (1910-1919).
New York Yankees, World Series Appearances By Decade
2010-19 0 2000-09 4 1990-99 3 1980-89 1 1970-79 3 1960-69 5 1950-59 8 1940-49 5 1930-39 5 1920-29 6 1910-19 0
Aside from that incredible streak of excellence being at risk, the intimidating influence the Yankees once had on the postseason seems to have expired. Entering Game 6, the Yankees experienced walking off the field losers nine previous times this millennium. Luis Gonzalez floats a ball over Derek Jeter’s head in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series started a trend that no one saw coming.
Mixed in those memories was the biggest postseason collapse in MLB history. Needing just three outs to get to the 2004 World Series and complete a sweep of the hated Red Sox, the unimaginable occurred. Boston tied the game off Mariano Rivera then extended their season with a walk-off HR by David Ortiz. Three days later, they watched Boston celebrate on their home field, becoming the only team in MLB history to blow a 3-0 series lead.
Most Postseason Walk-off Losses, MLB History
Yankees 18 >> Dodgers 12 Red Sox 12 Braves 11 >> Four have ended series (most in MLB history)
In the other corner stood the Astros. The same Astros who previously delivered walk-off postseason wins twice against them (Game 2 of 2019 and 2017 ALCS).
However, facing a two-run deficit entering the ninth-inning, DJ LeMahieu saved their season with an inspiring AB that resulted in a game-tying HR. Undoubtedly, the swagger was back as they took the field for the bottom of the ninth. Surely, momentum was on their side.
The Astros suffered a previous meltdown in the 2005 NLCS (yes, they were in the National League then). One-out away from reaching their first World Series, Brad Lidge surrendered a 3-run HR to Albert Pujols to push the series back to St. Louis. However, the Astros finished the Cardinals off in Game 6 to pick up their closer.
Jose Altuve experienced scoring a walk-off run in the 2017 ALCS. As he approached the plate, he knew he could pick up his closer. He stared out at Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman. In his previous 31 postseason appearances, Chapman only allowed one HR. Despite allowing one of the most significant HR in World Series history, allowing Cleveland to tie Game 7, he had allowed just one run in his 13 postseason appearances since.
Altuve delivered the Astros 10th walk-off win in postseason history. No other MLB team except the Yankees 23 has reached double-digits. On the flip side, it was the Yankees 18th postseason walk-off loss.
For Altuve and the Astros, it was the best of times, while for Chapman and the Yankees, it was the worst of times.