The Yankees rode a wave of emotions during the ninth inning of Saturday's 6-4 ALCS Game 6 loss to the Astros.
Down to their final three outs, the Bombers got the tying run to the plate against Astros closer Roberto Osuna, and just as he's done time after time this season, DJ LeMahieu came up with a massive hit, ripping a two-run homer to right to tie the game 4-4.
LeMahieu's blast gave the Yankees' new life, but in the bottom of the inning, Jose Altuve took it away.
After George Springer worked a two-out walk against Aroldis Chapman, Altuve jumped all over a 2-1 hanging slider, lifting a home run to left, and ending a Yankees season that had so much promise.
As Altuve rounded the bases, sending the Astros to their second World Series in the last three seasons, Chapman and the Astros found themselves in disbelief.
"I couldn't believe it," Chapman said via a translator afterwards. "He hit the ball, a tough time in the game, and he hit the ball well. And for that split second, I just couldn't believe it."
"I thought it was going to be our night. I thought we battled extremely hard, but we came up short," LeMahieu said.
"That's as tough as it gets, but I think we can look ourselves in the mirror and know we battled and know we did everything we could do."
According to Aaron Judge, describing the emotions of that ninth inning was almost impossible.
"It's tough to describe," Judge said. "Once DJ hit that two-run homer after battling, a great at-bat by him battling off tough pitches off one of the best closers in the game, that was impressive and that's why he's an MVP. He comes up big in situations like that. And then Altuve, that's just what he does. He comes up big for them all year and all postseason, and I can't really describe it."
Judge seemed to take the loss especially hard. In his three seasons, the Yankees have lost in the ALCS twice (2017 and 2019) and the ALDS (2018), and he said these playoff exits will only drive him more moving forward.
"I'll be thinking about this for a while," said Judge. "The past loss to Boston last year and the year before to Houston, I'm going to be thinking about that all offseason, every single day, and that's what's going to fuel me to try to do whatever I can to put our team in a position to win. Being a leader of this team, I've got to step up, I've got to do something, and I'll be thinking about that.
"Each and every single one of these guys, I talked to them after the game and just said this team has never been defined by wins and losses. It's defined by how we get up when we get hit. Each and every one of these guys contributed, up and down the lineup, up and down the roster, even guys who aren't here today. … These guys can't hand their head. They gave it all they had."
The Yankees finished the regular season with 103 wins, the third most in baseball. They coasted to an AL East title, taking an early lead in the division and never relenting, despite dealing with injuries to key players all season long.
But this wasn't the way they wanted things to end.
"It's a failure," Judge said. "In spring training we talked about winning the division and putting ourselves in a good spot for the postseason to win a World Series, and we came up short. No matter how many games we won in the regular season, or what else we did, the season's a failure.
"This definitely isn't how we thought it would end," added Brett Gardner. "Even going into yesterday down 3-1, still love the team that we have, still felt good about our chances, and obviously it just didn't end up the way we wanted. ... That's the thing, during the season when you lose, you always have a chance to come back tomorrow and redeem yourself and get back headed in the right direction, but obviously this time of year only one team goes home happy.
"Just the end of a really special season. This group of guys, we dealt with a lot of adversity all year long, even in spring training, coming out of spring training, up until the end of the season. It didn't matter what was thrown at us, we were able to find a way to push it to the side and continue to move forward and focus on the task at hand. I think that's what I'm most proud of with this group of guys."