Sheer volume said everything about Dallas Keuchel’s day. The pitcher who had kept the Yankees bats and fans silent in the 2015 postseason left in the fifth inning this time amid a piercing roar. He did not need words to describe what had happened, and he really did not have them anyway.
This generation’s most renowned Yankee killer was not even mediocre in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. He walked off the mound during the Astros’ 5-0 loss with disappointment and without much of an explanation.
“The most frustrating part was I didn’t pick the guys up. They were looking toward me to kind of saddle up and get this thing back and going again,” Keuchel said after having failed to prevent his team from losing a third game in a row and falling within one loss of elimination. “The first inning was really good and it seemed like they made the necessary adjustments and put the ball in play in the right spots.”
Yankee Stadium became a noisy cauldron, bubbling over for the Astros. Keuchel had been the team’s best hope after the bullpen had tossed away Game 4 on Tuesday night. He could not get out of jams and could not keep the cheering from snowballing. The pitcher who normally handles the Yankees and famously shut them down in the 2015 wild-card game allowed four runs on seven hits in 4 2⁄3 innings. “Yankee Stadium is a tough place to play and it was rocking these past couple of games, but it’s going to be rocking [at home] on Friday for us,” he said.
The odd and, for Houston, troubling part was that his work was not horrible. “I thought I made some pretty good pitches. They just weren’t good enough. You’ve got to have that extra movement, that extra location. There’s only one pitch I would like to have back,” he said, referring to a two-out cutter in the second that Starlin Castro hammered to left, setting up the first run.
His manager A.J. Hinch added, “It was more about them hitting good pitches. He got under duress early, they got a two-out base hit to score a run. Once you get behind in the playoffs, you have to be pretty perfect. At least he feels that way.”
Had Keuchel been perfect, his team would have been only even. The Astros got nothing from their bats. Players spoke about how the veteran Carlos Beltran gave them a hang-in-there pep talk afterward, but they might have profited more if Beltran had spoken with his bat. He had a weak groundout and two strikeouts for a club that had only four hits, never more than one in an inning.
“If I would have known we were going to score zero, then I would have tried to throw the magic ball up there today. It is what it is,” Keuchel said, deadpan. “Two years ago, it seemed like [the Stadium fans] were searching for anything to cheer for but it just wasn’t there. It seems like these last three games there has been plenty to cheer for. That’s the inability to execute on our part. We had a lead yesterday and let it go. And we didn’t get quality starting pitching today.”
The Astros have totaled 22 hits in the first five games of the ALCS and have a team batting average of .147. Their worst offenders:
Josh Reddick .000 (0-for-17)
Brian McCann .000 (0-for-10)
Carlos Beltran .083 (1-for-12)
George Springer .111 (2-for-18)
Alex Bregman .118 (2-for-17)
Marwin Gonzalez .133 (2-for-15)