Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News arrow-downArrow Down icon Arrow Up icon

Yankees believe 'sweeter' times are ahead

After tough ALDS loss, New York remains optimistic for future
@BryanHoch
October 10, 2020

The visiting clubhouse at Petco Park dripped with heartbreak late on Friday evening, the cinder-block walls insulating the Yankees from the raucous celebration taking place on the field, where the large left-field scoreboard was frozen in displaying the Rays’ 2-1 victory in Game 5 of the American League Division Series.

The visiting clubhouse at Petco Park dripped with heartbreak late on Friday evening, the cinder-block walls insulating the Yankees from the raucous celebration taking place on the field, where the large left-field scoreboard was frozen in displaying the Rays’ 2-1 victory in Game 5 of the American League Division Series.

According to those in the room, the scene was similar to the cocktail of anger and frustration that the Yanks experienced after Game 6 of last year’s AL Championship Series, another game in which closer Aroldis Chapman gave up a home run that decided the fate of the team’s season.

Add in the challenges and emotion of playing through a worldwide pandemic -- a season opener delayed by four months, being largely confined to hotel rooms on the road, then even more strict "bubbles" late in the year. These Yankees bonded, in part because there was no one else they could lean upon.

“We were basically all we had during this whole time,” designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton said. “I mean, a lot of us haven't seen our family in eight-plus months. Yeah, we're really close, and it's a tough loss.”

It was after the ALCS loss to the Astros, victimized by Jose Altuve’s pennant-winning homer, that outfielder Aaron Judge declared the 2019 season to have been “a failure.” They had held championship aspirations from the first days of Spring Training and considered their mission unfulfilled, still seeking the franchise’s 28th World Series title.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone didn’t love that harsh assessment then, and he was even further removed from an all-or-nothing stance on Friday, telling his players that they had many reasons to hold their heads high.

“He told us he was proud of us for continuing to battle down to the last out, and to continue to keep working,” Judge said. “There's a lot of work that still needs to be done with this team, with each individual. Just continue to work and don't forget that feeling.”

Boone described a clubhouse where tears were shed and some players grabbed the opportunity to speak, the population of the room having fully expected that they would manage more than one run and three hits with their season on the line. Boone said that he saw the difference between New York and Tampa Bay as “razor thin.”

“In what's been a real year of peaks and valleys for us on the field, I feel like in a lot of ways we're playing our best baseball right now,” Boone said. “We lost to a really good team. We're going to get there. I know it. And it's going to make it all the sweeter.”

Judge pointed to a lack of timely hitting as the deciding factor in the ALDS, noting numerous chances with runners on base, including his own turns at the plate. Judge’s Game 5 homer produced New York’s only run, but he completed the postseason with four hits, three of which were homers, in 30 at-bats (.133).

“There were countless opportunities we had to really change the outcome of this series, and we just weren't able to capitalize,” Judge said. “I take full responsibility for that, especially being a leader on this team. I needed to step up and just wasn't able to do it.”

First baseman Luke Voit, who led the Majors with 22 home runs while playing through what he revealed to be a “classic case of plantar fasciitis” that affected him most on the basepaths, said that 2020 had been fun -- but not good enough, especially after he voiced belief that the team would win Game 5.

“I was terrible this series,” Voit said. “I feel like I let my team down after having a good year. I need to be better.”

Voit said that he had already scheduled an MRI for Sunday, vowing to be ready for the beginning of Spring Training 2021. That Grapefruit League opener is set for Feb. 27 against the Tigers in Tampa, Fla., just 140 days after the Yanks zipped their bags and checked out of their posh Carlsbad, Calif., resort on Saturday morning.

“I hate this feeling,” Voit said. “It's my third year in a row going through it, so I’m going to use it in every workout, every BP session, every cage session I have. There's always a loser, and it sucks being on the losing end.”

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.