SAN DIEGO — After a tight postseason struggle against a division rival, the Yankees ended another promising season well short of their World Series goal. The Yankees, considered a title contender before the season, fell, 2-1, to the Tampa Bay Rays in a tense do-or-die Game 5 in an American League division series on Friday.
Mike Brosseau, who entered the game in the seventh inning, delivered a late, crushing blow against the Yankees and earned some revenge against reliever Aroldis Chapman in the process.
It was a month ago that Chapman threw a 101-mile-per-hour pitch near Brosseau’s head during another flare-up in the ongoing rivalry between the two teams, earning a three-game suspension.
In the eighth inning on Friday, Chapman fired a 100-miles-per-hour pitch over the plate, and Brosseau smashed it over the left-field wall to give the Rays the winning run and send them to the next round.
The home run capped a taut contest in which both teams’ pitching staffs gave little ground. Gerrit Cole, the ace of the Yankees’ starting rotation, tossed five and one-third strong innings, while the Rays suffocated the Yankees’ potent offense with strong pitching and defense.
The Rays will now face the reviled Houston Astros, who carried out a sign-stealing scheme during their championship-winning season in 2017. While the Astros are making their fourth straight appearance in the A.L. Championship Series, the Rays last reached this round in 2008.
And the Yankees will return home to face another long winter. In their last off-season, they committed a record $324 million to Cole, the type of elite starting pitcher they had lacked in past postseasons. But instead of reaching their first World Series since 2009, the Yankees fell short again.
Entering the series, the Yankees, whose payroll is nearly four times bigger than that of the Rays, poked fun at their underdog status. The two teams — whose rivalry over the past few years has featured hit batters, heated words, bench-clearing skirmishes and suspensions — were awkwardly staying at the same hotel in the San Diego area this week as part of Major League Baseball’s controlled environment for the playoffs amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The series victory continued the Rays’ dominance of the Yankees this year. The Yankees, the fifth seed in the playoffs, lost eight of their 10 regular-season meetings, and the A.L. East title, to the top-seeded Rays. They fell behind two games to one in this best-of-five series after their pitching strategy backfired and their starting pitchers sputtered.
The Yankees won on Thursday to force a Game 5, for which Cole, who led the Yankees to victory in Game 1 on Monday, agreed to start on short rest for the first time in his career.
Aaron Judge, who was 3 for 27 this postseason entering Friday, staked the Yankees to a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning on Friday with a solo blast off the Rays’ stellar reliever, Nick Anderson, who had allowed only one home run all year. The Yankees could muster little else against the revolving door of stout Rays pitchers, led by Tyler Glasnow, who started on two days’ rest.
Cole, pumping 98 mile-per-hour fastballs and wicked breaking balls, did not allow his first hit until the fifth inning. But, unfortunately for the Yankees, the hit was a home run by Rays right fielder Austin Meadows, tying the game at 1-1.
In the sixth inning, Brett Gardner saved Cole from another home run when he nonchalantly robbed Rays slugger Randy Arozarena of one at the left field wall. Yankees Manager Aaron Boone then removed Cole, who finished with nine strikeouts, and turned the game over to his best relievers, including Chapman. But when it mattered most, the Yankees, once again, could not beat their frequent foe.