Baseball

Once-promising New York baseball season about to end in a whimper


April was blissful. May was bountiful. June was beautiful. July was brilliant.

Even August and September, with its challenges on either side of baseball New York, had their moments. This was the baseball season out of our dreams, start to finish, regardless of whether you are Yankees or Mets, regardless on which end of the Triborough Bridge your fiercest loyalties lay.

For large swaths of the summer, both the Yankees and Mets not only looked like the best team in baseball, but also they both seemed custom-designed for October success. Between them, they won 200 games. That never has happened before in New York City, going back to 1962.

Every day in New York, in New Jersey, on Long Island and in Westchester County and Connecticut, every precinct where baseball truly matters here, people wanted to chatter about baseball. Everyone had something to say. Everyone, for almost six straight months, was in a good mood. Baseball made them that way.

Is it really this close to being over?

Is it truly possible that by the close of business Sunday, both ballparks could be shuttered, the padlocks fastened to the front doors, both teams leaving October in a hail of strikeouts and weak pop flies and runners stranded and rallies foiled? Can that be so?

Say it ain’t so.

Aaron Judge and Max Scherzer
Aaron Judge and Max Scherzer
Corey Sipkin; N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

It’s so.

The Yankees lost 5-0 to the Astros on Saturday in Game 3 of the ALCS, and that nudged their toes right to the edge of the abyss, nudged New York’s fun-filled baseball season to the brink of extinction, and threatened to summon winter two months early. Their scuffling offense continued to scuffle, and the Astros made them pay for it.

The Astros, in fact, made them pay for just about everything. There was the lazy fly ball in the second that Harrison Bader dropped after he was no doubt jarred by the onrushing presence of Aaron Judge. A few pitches later, Chas McCormick found the short porch in right field for a 2-0 lead.

Four innings later, Aaron Boone took the ball away from Gerrit Cole, sitting on 96 pitches, in a bases-loaded jam, and gave it instead to Lou Trivino. Two batters later it was 5-0. And the way the Yankees’ bats presently look, that might well have been 15-0. Or 50-0.

“We haven’t been able to get things clicking or same page,” Judge said. “But we’ve still got a lot of ball to play.”

Technically that’s true. In truth? It was hard to ignore an ill chill Saturday, after a day that had felt an awful lot like the top of June.

Gerrit Cole, who was pulled from the game in the sixth inning, has a dejected expression during the eighth inning of the Yankees' 5-0 loss to the Astros in Game 3 of the ALCS.
Gerrit Cole, who was pulled from the game in the sixth inning, has a dejected expression during the eighth inning of the Yankees’ 5-0 loss to the Astros in Game 3 of the ALCS.
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Two weeks ago, the Mets fell meekly to the Padres, and in their final gasp of the season on a Sunday night at Citi Field they managed all of one hit against Joe Musgrove, who has proven in subsequent outings against the Dodgers and Phillies to be something less than Bob Gibson.

Saturday, the Yankees managed all of one hit against the Astros across the first 8 ²/₃ innings. Even when Houston showed a smidgen of largesse — Hunter Brown walking the first two hitters of the eighth inning — the best they could do was get a man to third before going down meekly.

Boos rained down then, and that has become the sad soundtrack of this postseason, boos in Flushing and boos in The Bronx. On one of the true epic nights of the summer, at Citi Field, Max Scherzer and Judge met for two classic at-bats, and there was so much buzz at the ballpark it felt as if it could provide a new power grid for the whole city.

Scherzer won those duels with a pair of strikeouts, and the electricity was tangible.

Two weeks ago, Scherzer was booed off the mound after getting shelled by the Padres. Saturday evening, Judge heard boos a couple of times, the last after grounding out to third to end that eighth-inning non-rally.

They were the immediate targets of the boos, but New York wasn’t turning on two of their brightest stars as much as it was letting the baseball gods know how they felt, the boos aimed at the wicked, winding and altogether fickle way a whole summer can vanish in the space of a couple of games.

“We need a little bit of a spark to bounce our way,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

And here we are, at the brink, at the abyss, at the precipice. Maybe Nestor Cortes can save the Yankees on Sunday. Maybe someone can hit a baseball hard, allow Yankees fans to at least dream of avenging 2004, when everyone saw firsthand that a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven isn’t necessarily a certainty.

Someone needs to do something. Winter isn’t welcome just yet. This baseball season promised so much to deliver this little.



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