NEW YORK -- The Yankees won the offseason when they added Giancarlo Stanton to an exciting roster that had developed ahead of schedule, completing their previous campaign one victory from reaching the World Series. The result was an intimidating lineup that established a single-season record for home runs, accompanying a bullpen that again ranked among the league's finest.
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With those pieces in place, the Yankees believed that they had everything required to be the final team standing in October, counting upon their ability to take advantage of what had seemed to be an overwhelming home-field advantage. Instead their chase for the elusive 28th championship in franchise history expired with Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the Red Sox in Game 4 of the American League Division Series.
"They've got a great team over there," slugger Aaron Judge said. "They won 108 games with one of the most potent offenses in the game. It was a battle back and forth. A lot of those games could have gone either way with a couple of innings. What a year they had. Congrats to them."
Most of a sellout crowd of 49,641 was still packing the house as the Yankees mounted a final threat against closer Craig Kimbrel, who entered to protect a three-run lead. Judge worked a four-pitch walk and Didi Gregorius singled before Stanton drew groans with a strikeout. But Luke Voit worked a free pass and Neil Walker was hit by a pitch, forcing home a run.
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Gary Sanchez lifted a deep fly ball to left field that died on the warning track, good for a sacrifice fly that brought New York within a run. But with the decibel level spiking, Gleyber Torres made the final out of the Yankees' season, a soft grounder to third base that Eduardo Nunez whipped across his body before his teammates celebrated in the center of the diamond after a replay review of the close play at first base.
"I know Kimbrel is a really good pitcher," Torres said. "I tried to be focused and help my team. That at-bat, I tried to get a base hit and do my job. I didn't do my job. I feel really sad for that. I'm ready for next year and another opportunity."
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In what could be his final start in pinstripes, Carsten Sabathia was peppered for three runs over three innings, placing the bats in an early hole as New Jersey native Rick Porcello and four relievers (including Chris Sale) held down a lineup that slugged 267 homers during the regular season but was outscored by 13 runs (27-14) in the ALDS.
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"One of their goals in this series was to keep us in the ballpark," manager Aaron Boone said. "And then coming here, where we're so good at that, they were able to do it. Credit to them for being able to hold us down and shut us down, but in the end, you don't move on usually when you can't get enough big hits in a series. They just outplayed us a little bit."
Making the 23rd postseason start (24th appearance) of his career, the 38-year-old Sabathia left the bases loaded in the first inning and pitched around a walk in the second, but he found trouble in the third inning, as Boone was once again slow to get the bullpen working after sticking with Luis Severino too long in Game 3.
Andrew Benintendi was hit by a pitch, advanced to third on a Steve Pearce single and scored on J.D. Martinez's sacrifice fly. After inducing a groundout by Xander Bogaerts, Sabathia threw a wild pitch and permitted a run-scoring double to Ian Kinsler that sailed past a leaping Brett Gardner, then an RBI single to Nunez.
"It's always disappointing," Sabathia said. "Any time the season ends, it's disappointing, but you've got to keep going. This is a very, very young team that's got a lot of talent, that's going to win the World Series. And I want to be here to be a part of it."
Christian Vazquez extended Boston's lead in the fourth inning with an opposite-field home run off left-hander Zach Britton. The homer landed in the first row in right field, a visually similar blast to the one that Derek Jeter hit against the Orioles in the 1996 AL Championship Series exactly 22 years ago at the old Yankee Stadium -- except, of course, without the fan interference.
New York broke through for its lone run against Porcello -- who recorded two outs as a reliever in Boston's Game 1 victory -- in the fifth. Sanchez roped a ground-rule double to left-center and Torres legged out an infield hit on a slow roller up the third-base line, setting up Gardner's sacrifice fly.
Gardner, like Sabathia, may also have played his final game with the Yankees, along with a group of free agents that includes Player Page for David Robertson, J.A. Happ, Britton and Andrew McCutchen. Gardner, Robertson and Sabathia are the last remaining members of the Yankees' most recent World Series championship club (2009).
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"We just didn't play our best baseball, and we got beat," Gardner said. "It hurts right now, but this team, a lot of young guys in this room, the future here is bright. They're going to keep working and they'll be even better because of this next year."
The Yankees lost two consecutive home postseason games after having won seven straight. They lost consecutive home games only five times during the regular season. During the regular season, they were 18-5 at home when losing their previous game at Yankee Stadium.
"I expected to come here and win two in a row," Gardner said. "I thought that our crowd was unbelievable right down to the last pitch tonight. All the support they gave us all year, and the atmosphere they create in big games and the postseason, just to be a part of it and stand out on the field and kind of take it all in, I'm very blessed to be a part of something so special."
HE SAID IT
"It was a tough one. Our ultimate goal was to bring back a championship and that ring. We fell short of that. I came back from the wrist injury and that was my main goal, to get my at-bats and get ready for the postseason. We just came up short." -- Judge
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Boston's celebration was held up as Boone immediately asked for a review on the final out, as Nunez's throw across the diamond came close to pulling Pearce off first base. Torres had a sliver of hope that the play would be overturned and the inning extended, but he knew that he was probably going to be called out.
"I hope I'm safe, but it's out. It's tough," Torres said. "It's a really bad moment for right now, but I'll continue to pray and play for next year."