SAN DIEGO — When the New York Yankees needed their star-studded lineup to produce runs in an elimination playoff game, they got three hits.
When they really could have used a special play in the field to save a run, Aaron Judge hit his head on the wall.
And when the Yankees needed their superstar closer to shut down the Tampa Bay Rays, Aroldis Chapman gave up a homer to an undrafted infielder who had never gone yard in a playoff game.
New York’s season came to a crashing end in San Diego on Friday night with a 2-1 loss in Game 5 of the AL Division Series. After failing to reach the World Series for the 11th consecutive year, the Yankees head into an uncertain off-season with the certain knowledge they weren’t even the best team in the AL East this season.
“It’s awful,” manager Aaron Boone said. “The ending is cruel, it really is.”
The team’s biggest faults in Game 5 were on offence. Judge’s fourth-inning homer was the only extra-base hit in Game 5 by a lineup that crushed a major league-record 17 homers in its seven playoff games, only to lose three of the final four games in that stretch.
While Tampa Bay will face the Houston Astros on Sunday in the ALCS, the Yankees will lament the inconsistency that will define this season. The Yanks were among the most impressive teams in the sport when they were good — but frequently embarrassing when they weren’t.
The Yankees averaged 5.7 runs per game during a red-hot 16-6 start, but then the bats went ice cold amid injuries to Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu and others. The team went on a 5-15 slide — allowing the Rays to take hold of the AL East lead — then won 10 straight before closing the season by dropping six of eight games.
Judge hit his third homer of the post-season in the fourth inning of Game 5 to put the Yankees up, but New York managed just two singles and two walks over the final five innings, never getting a runner to third base against Tampa Bay’s impressive bullpen.
LeMahieu, Stanton, Luke Voit, Gio Urshela and Brett Gardner all went hitless in the Yankees’ biggest game of the season.
“In what’s been a year of peaks and valley for us on the field, I feel like we’re playing our best baseball of the year right now,” Boone said. “Against a team that really held us down tonight. We’re going to get there. I know it, and it’s going to make it all the sweeter, but a lot of hurting people in there right now.”
One inning after Judge’s shot, $324 million starter Gerrit Cole gave away the lead by allowing Austin Meadows’ homer over Judge’s head in right. The Yankees slugger couldn’t do something extraordinary to stop it — in fact, he ended up looking silly for a moment.
Judge followed Meadows’ drive to the warning track, but he failed to notice the padded overhang above the video billboard built into the wall. When the 6-foot-7 slugger leaped, he immediately hit his head on the padding and couldn’t stretch out to reach the ball, which landed behind the wall in a spot that might have been out of Judge’s reach anyway.
Judge’s mistake was a product of baseball’s decision to play the post-season on neutral fields, with the league playoff series occurring in the other league’s ballparks. Judge had never played a big league game at Petco Park before this series.
But the Yankees were still in it until Chapman lost his 10-pitch battle with Brosseau. Chapman filled a villain’s role perfectly in the matchup, given the 101-mph fastball that he threw near Brosseau’s head last month during the escalating tensions between these unfriendly rivals.
Brosseau and the Rays got the definitive last laugh, and the Yankees won’t be able to answer until next year.
Pacers hire Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren as new head coach – Sportsnet.ca
Indiana has been looking for a new head coach since firing Nate McMillan back on Aug. 26, only 14 days after strangely agreeing to a contract extension with him. McMillan’s dismissal came shortly after the Pacers were ousted from the playoffs in the first round for the fifth-straight season.
Evidently looking to shake things up and with a roster that contains its own plethora of questions, Indiana settled on Bjorkgren, who’s been a valuable member of Nick Nurse’s staff since joining the coaching ranks as an assistant in 2018.
“We are very pleased and excited to have Nate as our new coach,” said president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard in a press release. “This was an extensive and thorough search, and when we reached the conclusion, we felt strongly Nate is the right coach for us at the right time. He comes from a winning background, has experienced championship success, is innovative and his communication skills along with his positivity are tremendous. We all look forward to a long, successful partnership in helping the Pacers move forward.”
A coach with NBA championship experience following Toronto’s 2019 run, Bjorkgren also served as an assistant with the Phoenix Suns from 2015-17 and spent a lengthy period of time in the then-D League, a space in which he was given his first pro-coaching job by Nurse with the Iowa Energy and in which he built a relationship with current Pacers forward T.J. Warren as head coach of the Bakersfield Jam.
“Nate and I have known each other for 30 years, and I will miss having him next to me on our bench, and I know the Raptors players and staff will miss working with him every day,” Nurse said in a statement. “With Nate, the Pacers are getting someone who is ready to lead an NBA team, who is always prepared and is super-positive, who knows what it takes to win a championship, at any level, and is willing to put in the work to get there.”
The Pacers now join the Brooklyn Nets as the only two teams with coaching vacancies to go with a first-time hire.
“I am honoured to take on the role as head coach of the Indiana Pacers,” said Bjorkgren. “This is something I have prepared for during my career. I want to thank Kevin, Chad (Buchanan), Kelly (Krauskopf), Larry Bird, Donnie Walsh and Herb and Steve Simon for this opportunity. I also want to thank Nick Nurse for giving me my first professional coaching job 14 years ago.
“I’m looking forward to working with this great team to achieve our goal as NBA champions.”
FTB: Kyle Dubas moves on to Travis Dermott – Pension Plan Puppets
Kyle Dubas cleared out his calendar today by signing Ilya Mikheyev to a new two-year contract last night. Mikheyev requested salary arbitration with the Maple Leafs to settle his contract, and the hearing was scheduled for today, but the two sides managed to come together and strike a deal last night before the arbiter got involved.
Mikheyev was in an unusual position with only one season of NHL experience, much of that a write-off from a major injury, but he is 26 years-old and has five prior years of professional playing history in the KHL before the Leafs signed him and brought him over to Canada in 2019. That KHL experience was ineligible for discussion in the arbitration, so the arbiter would have had a tough job to make a proper comparison to his peer players, but none of that matters now. He’s signe with the Leafs for another two years.
I do have to say, I am quite happy with Mikheyev back. What price can you possibly put on scoring against the Habs only 30 seconds into a game?
Dubas will now turn to the remaining two restricted free agents left that need new contracts; defenceman Travis Dermott, and winger prospect Joey Anderson who was acquired from the Devils as a oart of the return for Andreas Johnsson. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both contracts are announced today. Dubas doesn’t have much room under the salary cap left so these contracts are essentially fait accompli.
We have a new Fanpost for you to check out.
Leafs Postseason Rankings – theForester26
Do you like to argue about post-season rankings? Well theForester26 has some post-season rankings for you to argue about!
Gretzky Index Finale: The Best Possible All-Time Teams Through Different Age Ranges – The Copper & Blue
Do you like to argue about all-time great rosters? Well here’s some hypothetical all-time great rosters for you to argue about!
Blackhawks ‘new’ rebuilding plan is same one they’ve worked on for 3 seasons – Second City Hockey
As long as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith are around, the Blackhawks are NOT in a rebuild and any suggestions to the contrary are incorrect.
Thompson to wear 11 in honour of Rypien – NHL.com
“At first, I was kind of nervous about it. It was kind of overwhelming at first because I know how much Rick Rypien meant to people. I had to think about it a little bit, said Nate Thompson.”
P.K. Subban on NHL social change, ‘The Last Dance,’ nearly being a Penguin and more – ESPN
The Devils defenseman checks in on the league’s social justice initiatives and much more.
Color of Hockey: O’Ree releases book, not slowing down at 85 – NHL
Willie O’Ree isn’t slowing down at 85. Days removed from his birthday, which was Oct. 15, the NHL’s first Black player recounted his special day, the well-wishes he received from players past and present, and reflected on his extraordinary career during the latest episode of Soul on Ice: The Podcast.
Connor Bedard on training in Sweden, call from Gretzky and exceptional status – TSN
“Connor Bedard’s phone rang and caller ID showed a number he didn’t recognize. “I think it’s one of those robot things that’s calling so I didn’t answer it. Then it called again and I answered and he’s like, ‘Hey, I’m Wayne Gretzky,’ and I was sure it was a prank call at first.”
Couple finds 60 bottles of 1920’s bootleg whiskey inside NY home
[SPECIES: why can’t this happen to me in my basement!]
Hudson's Bay Company Launches Division to Redevelop Real Estate Assets – Toronto Storeys
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