Home or away, the Yankees had no chance against Dallas Keuchel this year. As a result, they're home for the rest of 2015.
Helpless against the Astros' ace lefthander over six innings, the Yankees, returning to the playoffs after a two-year absence, fell, 3-0, to the Astros Tuesday night in the AL wild-card game.
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A sellout Stadium crowd of 50,113 made a lot of noise early but steadily quieted as the zeros mounted, booing the final two innings the offensively flailing Yankees, who lost six of their last seven games to stagger into the postseason.
"The team we finished with I don't think was reflective of what our capabilities were," general manager Brian Cashman said in a mostly silent clubhouse. "Houston deserves a lot of credit. They earned going forward, we earned going home. I thought hopefully we could turn it back on and we would reset that button but it didn't happen. That's probably a credit to Dallas Keuchel but it's also more reflective of how we've recently been playing baseball, and that's unfortunate."
Starting on three days' rest for the first time in his career, Keuchel, 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA this season, allowed three hits and one walk with seven strikeouts. He extended his scoreless streak against the Yankees to 22 innings. The Yankees struggled against lefthanded pitchers the second half of the season, particularly after Mark Teixeira was lost in late August to a right leg fracture.
"We didn't solve Keuchel the whole year," Joe Girardi said.
Astros lefthander Tony Sipp pitched a scoreless seventh inning and righthander Will Harris threw a scoreless eighth, with pinch hitter Jacoby Ellsbury, the $153-million centerfielder benched against Keuchel, popping out to short to end the inning and drawing boos from the crowd. As was Brett Gardner, 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, did a batter before when he grounded out.
Righthander Luke Gregerson pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.
"We didn't play well," Gardner said. "It's going to take a long time to get over this . . . We just didn't perform well. Not just today but down the stretch."
Masahiro Tanaka, the $155-million pitcher making the biggest start of his career in pinstripes, allowed three homers in his only other start against the Astros this season, June 27 in Houston, and was moderately better Tuesday night, allowing two.
The righthander gave up solo blasts to Colby Rasmus leading off the second, and Carlos Gomez leading off the fourth. Tanaka allowed those two runs, four hits and three walks in five innings.
Dellin Betances, whom many opposing team scouts felt was out of gas the final three weeks of the season, allowed a run in the eighth that made it 3-0.
But it wasn't about the Yankees' pitching as much as it was the Bombers bats, which managed just the three singles against Keuchel for the night.
The Yankees' best chance came in the sixth when Didi Gregorius and Carlos Beltran singled, but Alex Rodriguez (0-for-4, two strikeouts) flied out softly to center.
"Guys were saying, 'we're going to keep grinding, eventually he's going to crack, he's going to give us something to hit,' " said Chase Headley, who went 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout. "As far as I know, he didn't."
Gardner was among several Yankees who stood on the top step of the dugout watching the celebration by the Astros, who will start the ALDS against the top-seeded Royals Thursday night.
"In that moment, you almost want to blink a couple of times and wake up and that not be the reality, you want to have a couple of more cracks at it," Gardner said. "It's definitely a tough pill to swallow to see another team celebrating on your field, but at the end of the day, only one team's going to go home happy at the end of the year and it's obviously not going to be us."