In the aftermath of the instant-classic Game 6 of the ALCS, Astros hero Jose Altuve rightfully received all of the plaudits following one of the most memorable endings to a League Championship Series that there will ever be. After all, Altuve became just the fifth player to end an LCS with a home run. When you pull off something like that, you deserve all the praise you get. Meanwhile, the team that came up short isn’t going to get much attention.
With that being said, DJ LeMahieu’s game-tying homer in the top of that fateful ninth inning shouldn’t be forgotten with the Yankees’ loss. It was amazing in its own right and had things gone a different way, this would be the moment that everyone would have been talking about following the game.
The ending was spectacular, but the best part of LeMahieu’s at-bat was that it was the type of grit that you hear lovers of old-timey baseball talk about. The drama and intensity of baseball all gets ratcheted up the deeper you get into October and there’s nothing more dramatic and intense than a 10-pitch at-bat with the tying run at the plate in the ninth inning of an elimination game. It was a moment of pressure and LeMahieu decided that he was going to fight tooth-and-nail for anything.
So the battle began between LeMahieu and Roberto Osuna. After LeMahieu fell behind 1-2 in the count, it was as if he was determined that if he was going to go down, he was going to go down swinging. After taking the fourth pitch of the at-bat for a ball, LeMahieu fouled off a pretty good pitch from Osuna to keep the hope alive for New York. Osuna kept trying to pound fastballs into the zone and even tried to paint one of the edges with a two-seamer for the sixth pitch of the at-bat. LeMahieu saw it and just batted it away. He went to nearly the same spot for the eighth pitch (after LeMahieu fouled off what should have been a ball) and LeMahieu did the same thing to it.
Once the ninth pitch rolled around, Osuna had to have been thinking that LeMahieu was going to be aggressive minded and was going to swing at anything that came his way. So he sent a fastball up and a bit out of the zone and LeMahieu sat on it for ball three. That set the stage for a full count with the tying run at the plate and just one run on first. This led to the entire stadium and everybody watching at home hanging on to the result of this very next pitch.
LeMahieu’s sudden selectivity paid off. Roberto Osuna threw a cutter right down the middle and LeMahieu put a charge into it. It went flying to the fence in right field and now it was a matter of whether or not George Springer was going to catch it and if there were going to be any fan shenanigans when it came to Springer getting an opportunity to make the play.
Unfortunately for George Springer, the ball just barely eluded his grasp. Instead of pulling off one of the great postseason defensive miracles, all he could do was sit forlornly at the base of the wall as LeMahieu rounded the bases to meet Gio Urshela at home plate to tie the game.
I’m sure you’ve either read about or watched what Altuve did next about a million times by now. Instead of extending what was already a very long game into extra innings, Altuve just decided to end the game and win the pennant in the bottom half of the inning. It was an amazing moment, but the consequence of that amazing moment is that it erased LeMahieu’s effort. History rarely remembers the losers and it’s unlikely that this will be remembered for too much longer when it comes to a team with the history and expectations that the Yankees have. It’s going to be a long winter for New York, but the memory of LeMahieu’s tenacious at-bat and resultant homer should at least warm you up by one degree.
[If this post didn’t make you too sad to watch the Fall Classic, here’s our Nationals-Astros World Series predictions]