After facing an 0-2 deficit against the Cleveland Indians, the New York Yankees stormed back, won the next three, and officially punched their ALCS ticket with a 5-2 win in Game 5 of the ALDS, winning the series 3-2.
Down, but NEVER out.
— MLB (@MLB) October 12, 2017
The Yankees won in spite of a terrible performance from one of their biggest stars. The Indians lost largely because too many of their biggest stars didn’t step up.
Naturally, a series like that produced many heroes and goats. These were the biggest winners and losers from the Yankees ALDS victory over the Indians.
Winner: Didi Gregorius
Gregorius makes this list for a simple reason. Not including him would be ridiculous.
— MLB (@MLB) October 12, 2017
In the winner-take-all Game 5, Gregorius hit two home runs and drove in three runs on those bombs. If the Yankees had won 12-3, that would still be quite relevant. The fact that they won 5-2 makes Gregorius’ role even more important.
Gregorius did not have a great game-to-game performance in this ALDS. But in a pressure packed, must win game, he rose to the occasion — and then some.
Loser: Corey Kluber
Entering the series, Kluber was perhaps the greatest advantage that the Indians had. Unfortunately for the likely American League Cy Young Award winner, it didn’t work out that way. Kluber took the ball twice in this series and both times, struggled in a fairly large way.
Judging pitcher’s numbers in the playoffs isn’t always fair. The sample size is small and pitchers aren’t often given a chance to work their issues out before getting pulled.
Those are valid points. Except, how often do we hear anyone making them in defense of Clayton Kershaw?
Even in the bullpen-heavy world that we live in now, no one player is more important in a playoff game than the starting pitcher. Expecting the game’s best pitchers to come through in the biggest games is not unreasonable.
Kluber’s performance was well below what it should have been in this series.
Winner: Houston Astros
The Astros closed out their ALDS victory over the Boston Red Sox on Monday. As a result, they’ll head into Game 1 of the ALCS well rested.
To be fair, that’s not always a great thing. But the Yankees aren’t exactly the prototypical example of a team carrying a lot of momentum into a series after getting hot to close the previous one out. Yes, they did win three games in a row. But the bullpen was already heavily used in the series and postseason, in general. It was then called on to handle the final 4.2 innings of the winner-take-all Game 5.
Bet your bottom dollar that a deep Houston lineup liked seeing how this series and specifically Game 5 played out.
Loser: Aaron Judge
Don’t think that his team winning let’s the man who will be the American League Rookie of the Year off the hook. Judge, who’s rookie year was historic, set the wrong kind of history in this series.
Aaron Judge stands alone. 14 Ks, now the single postseason series record.
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) October 12, 2017
When it was all said and done, he had 16 strikeouts. And unlike the regular season, Judge didn’t offset his high strikeout total with gaudy offensive stats.
Judge finished the series at .050/.208/.100 and failed to hit a single home run. In fact, Judge recorded only one hit of any kind. That’s an absolute slump and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for Judge or his team.
His team overcame it this time. But we can’t expect that to be replicable.
Winner: Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino
The Yankees trailed 0-2 in this series. Without good performances from their Game 3 and Game 4 starting pitchers, they never would have even played in a Game 5, let alone won it.
Tanaka didn’t have a great regular season. But in Game 3, he was spectacular. Down 0-2, Tanaka went seven innings, allowing no runs on only three hits, one walk, and seven strikeouts.
Severino didn’t let up in Game 4. He went seven innings, allowed three runs on four hits, one walk, and struck out nine. This was less than a week after a terrible outing in the American League Wild Card Game.
Those performances opened the door for everything that we saw in Game 5, allowing New York to reach the ALCS.
Loser: Top of the Cleveland order
The Indians got some unexpected struggles from the pitchers, especially Kluber. But the stats of Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, and Jose Ramirez don’t exactly paint a pretty picture for Cleveland, either.
Lindor hit a dramatic grand slam in Game 2, but finished the series at .111/.273/.278. Kipnis and Ramirez had similar struggles, slashing at .182/.182/.273 and .100/.182/.100, respectively.
In Game 5, those three combined to go 1-for-11 with one walk and four strikeouts. With that kind of production from the top-three hitters in the order, it’s a wonder that this team managed to even scratch two runs across the board.
After taking a 2-0 lead, this team was outscored 13-5 over the final three games. These three guys don’t shoulder all of the blame, but they deserve a good amount of it.
Winner: Aroldis Chapman
Joe Girardi rode his closer hard in this series and Chapman sure didn’t let his skipper down.
Chapman appeared in three games in the ALDS. He totaled 5.2 innings pitched, had a perfect 0.00 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, with 10 strikeouts.
Chapman entered Game 5 nursing a one-run lead. He went two full innings and retired all but one of the hitters that he faced, while striking out four.
As a member of the Chicago Cubs, Chapman struggled in the 2016 World Series against these Indians. But in this series, New York’s closer could not have been asked to do more.