“It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.” The only way I can describe what we all just witnessed in this ALDS between the young, Yankees and the heavily favored best team in the American League, Cleveland Indians, is to use the opening line to the suspenseful, and psychological thriller, “The Twilight Zone.” None of us saw this coming and if you said you knew all along that these Yankee kids could pull this off, your nose is bigger than Pinocchio’s.
What happened here? Did we just see the Yankees, down two games to nothing, come back and beat the Indians in three straight “do or die” elimination games.
The old pro, CC Sabathia, led the way with another solid, dominating pitching performance. Didi Gregorius (what was that previous shortstop’s name?) with two home runs, both off of the best pitcher in the regular season, Cory Kluber, gave the Yankees a three run lead. Brett Gardner had a monster at bat in the top of the ninth to push across two more insurance runs and that was it. If you just look at the box score, CC’s 4.1-inning 5-hit, 2-run pitching line does not look that good. But four of those hits (all singles) came in the fifth inning with one out after he had walked none and struck out 9 of the first 14 Indians he faced.
Kluber could not get it done again in a “do or die” situation. It was a repeat of the poor outing he had in game seven of last year’s World Series and in game two of this series. He was all over the place and could not find his command. Again he lasted less than four innings.
Once CC was pulled in the fifth, it was time for the two best bullpens in the playoffs to take over. And until the top of the ninth they did.
I began to get an uneasy feeling with Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman after he had to sit and wait for 30minutes in the top of the ninth as the Yankees scored two more runs. He started out with sub 100 mph pitches to the number three hitter in the Indian lineup Josè Ramírez (who had an awful series) andwalked him on six pitches. He then started off the dangerous cleanup hitter Edwin Encarnacion with more pitches below 100 mph. But on the 4th and 5th pitches of that at bat he found that adrenalineagain and struck out the DH with 100 and 101 MPH flame balls. The rest is history as he ended the game with a strikeout.
So now it’s on to Houston Friday. The only thing standing in the way of an appearance in the World Series for these surprising Yankees, is that powerhouse lineup of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, andGeorge Springer and their combined playoff batting average of .468. The Astros’ pitchers will be tough with Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander and Charlie Morton leading the way.
One of the things that could hurt the Yankees in the ALCS is the inconsistency of newly acquired Sonny Gray. He needs to remember how to pitch again and forget all those not so “sunny” days in Oakland where games had little meaning in late September and were never played in October. He needs to challenge hitters and not lose focus. He must be able to finish off hitters when he is ahead in the count. He will be the key to whether this team can advance to the World Series. At this point I would trust the kid Jordan Montgomery more than I would Gray.
So fasten your seat-belts Yankee fans, the roller coaster is at the top of its climb to the top and is about to begin its wild ride to the finish line. Enjoy!