MLB: ALCS-New York Yankees at Houston Astros

Houston's Jose Altuve, right, celebrates his walk-off homer with teammate Justin Verlander in Game 6 of the ALCS on Saturday night. The Astros will take on the Washington Nationals in the World Series starting Tuesday night.

The last World Series game the Yankees played was in November of 2009. Derek Jeter had three hits at the new Stadium, on the night when the Yankees brought all their winning over to the north side of 161st Street.

Andy Pettitte was the starter and the great Mariano Rivera was the closer and Jorge Posada was behind the plate. The Yankees won their 27th Series that night against the Phillies. Once again the Series was theirs. And ours in New York City.

The Yankees have been waiting for No. 28 ever since.

They had a chance to bring the Series back to the Bronx and back to the city this weekend in Houston, if they could have become the first Yankee team in over 50 years to come from three games to one down and win at this time of year. Then the new Yankee closer, Aroldis Chapman, gave up one of the most famous October home runs any Yankee pitcher has ever given up, to Jose Altuve, one of the littlest big men in baseball history.

Brett Gardner turned and watched a season end in the Yankee outfield the way Yogi once turned and watched Bill Mazeroski’s home run go over the left field wall at Forbes Field a million years ago. The Astros did to Aaron Boone’s Yankees what Boone once did to the Red Sox, on the other side of 161st Street, in the bottom of the 11th, Game 7 of the ALCS, 2003.

And now the World Series belongs to somebody else. Again. It belongs to Houston for the second time in three years and to Washington, D.C., which hasn’t had one since the first year FDR was President. To Yankees fans, it is starting to feel as if it has been that long for them.

For three straight years, these Yankees have played exceptional baseball. If you count the playoffs, they have won a total of 308 baseball games in this span. They just produced one of the most satisfying — and admirable --seasons in Yankee history, winning 103 regular season games after they put 30 players on the injured list. Now they lose two crushing extra-inning games to the Astros. Carlos Correa hits an 11th inning home run in Game 2. Altuve walks off with their season, after midnight in New York on Sunday morning. Once again, a very good Yankee team was not good enough.

They thought they had enough bullpen and enough stick — enough to put a $300 million sticker named Giancarlo Stanton on the bench Saturday night — to get back to the Series. In the end, the most important guy in their bullpen walked George Springer with two outs and then watched Altuve lose one. Two years ago, they came to Minute Maid Park ahead of the Astros three games to two, not behind. They were that close to their first Series in since ‘09. Then they scored one run in the last two games that year.

Not as good as the Astros then. Not as good as the Astros now.

Even at the end, in what was called a bullpen game in Game 6, the Astros bullpen was better. Final score says so. They bring the Series back to Houston this week. The Yankees go home. And 10 years since the last Series starts to feel like 100 to Yanks fans. As much of a show as they have been, and they were as much a regular-season show as they’ve been in 20 years, the Yanks have now played two World Series since 2000. They have played one in the last 16 years. This continues to be the longest stretch they have gone without playing a World Series since the 15 years between ‘81 and the appearance of Torre’s Yanks in 1996.

This loss to the Astros does not diminish the season they gave their fans. The Yankees won 100 regular-season games in 2018. The Red Sox were better, winning 108. This year the Astros won 107 to the Yankees’ 103. Now the Astros get them again in the postseason. This is what it used to feel like for the old Knicks when they were going up against Michael Jordan. But these are the Yankees. And the Yankees, in the words of Reggie Jackson, have “expectations,” no matter how long it’s been since they last won it all, with old Yankee champs like Jeter and Jorge and Andy and Mo.

Now they start all over, after this kind of ending. They have to wonder what they can do, if anything, with Stanton, whom they never needed, certainly not with an A-Rod-like contract that feels as long as the current Word Series drought. They have to be prepared to throw Stanton-like money at Gerrit Cole, who just dominated them in an ALCS the way Justin Verlander did two years ago. Over the last three years, the reality is that the Astros got Verlander and Cole and the Yankees did not. It really does seem as if the Yankees haven’t had a starting pitcher overpower somebody the way Cole overpowered them last week since Roger Clemens struck out 15 Mariners in October of 2000.

In the end, the Yankees didn’t lose to the Astros because of starting pitching. They lost because they didn’t hit enough in the clutch — until LeMahieu — in this postseason the way they didn’t last year against the Red Sox. And in Games 6 and 7 the year before that.

“The ultimate pain,” Boone said when it was over.

One World Series for the Yankees since he inflicted that kind of pain on the Red Sox once. Ten years and counting since the last Series. Feels like a hundred to Yankee fans. They used to make everybody else wait till next year. Now they do.