What they’re saying about the Yankees’ first round exit

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It’s audacious, I realize, to attribute the result in this series to the Tigers winning rather than the Yankees losing. Derek Jeter acknowledged it (see below), but that’s just not how New York rolls. So let us absorb the New York sturm und drang, shall we?

Joe Girardi:  “It’s an empty feeling for everyone in that room. And it hurts. You just got to remember this feeling and we’ll be determined next year.”

Bob Klapisch: “There were culprits up and down the lineup, but none so obvious as Alex Rodriguez, who’d turned into Public Enemy No. 1 by the ninth inning. There he was, swinging so feebly at Jose Valverde’s last fastball he should’ve done himself the favor and stayed in the dugout.”

Joel Sherman: “… the Yankees lost three games by a total of four runs. So they were a star turn away from winning this series; a game-turning pitch, a big hit, and, in particular, Sabathia and Rodriguez never delivered.”

Mike Lupica: we kept hearing about these great swings [Alex Rodriguez] was getting. How he was going to bust out. It makes more sense to call him the same kind of October bust he was for the Yankees before he had his one shining moment in 2009 … if A-Rod thinks doing it once gives him some kind of lifetime pass with Yankee fans, he didn’t hear the boos he got after he struck out in the bottom of the seventh Thursday night.

John Harper: “After a season spent worrying about whether the Yankees had enough pitching, it was the big bats that cost them in the end. Above all, as always, there was Rodriguez, striking out swinging with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, when even a single likely would have tied the game, and then striking out swinging to end the game.”

Wallace Matthews: “When Rodriguez swung through Valverde’s 94-mph, 1-2 fastball, not one honest person in Yankee Stadium could truly say they were surprised.”

Ian O’Connor: “Worried his hitters would be distracted, Joe Girardi, manager of the New York Yankees, had the umpires strip Benoit of his bandage, exposing what Tigers manager Jim Leyland called “a big lump on his face.” But Girardi couldn’t strip the pitcher of his powers, or of his ability to throw an 86-mph splitter on a 1-2 count that would reduce A-Rod to a flailing Game 5 mess and, ultimately, leave him once again as the face of a first-round flameout, the master of another Yankee disaster.

Steve Politi: The finger pointing will begin Friday, and there are plenty of directions to point. The manager and his six pitching changes will be a target. The broken down third baseman who struck out to end the game will be one, too. The lineup that hit 222 home runs during the regular season failing to make one good swing with all those opportunities — there are plenty of culprits, to be sure. But sometimes, there are no easy answers. Sometimes, when a 162-game season comes down to one night in October, the ball off the bat of the star shortstop dies on the warning track.

Tyler Kepner: “For all of the success of the Jeter/Mariano Rivera/Jorge Posada era, the Yankees have lost in the first round more often than they have won the World Series. They have five championships and seven first-round knockouts — in 1995, 1997, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2011. Their expectations never change: they win, or the season is a failure.”

Jeff Bradley: “It was almost eerie in the Stadium as the highest-paid player in the game waved at a pitch from Detroit closer Jose Valverde. The crowd was barely making a noise. The old anticipatory thundering applause that’s been know to rattle an opponent was not there. Almost like the crowd had seen enough of A-Rod. And did not believe.”

Derek Jeter: “They pitched, man. They pitched That’s why they’re here, that’s why they’re moving on. They’ve got a great pitching staff. Their starters are tough, their bullpen is good. And Valverde closes the door. You get to this point in the season, it’s usually about pitching for the most part. They were tough on us.”

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).