HOUSTON (AP) — CC Sabathia was on the mound, unbeaten when starting after New York Yankees losses.
Aaron Judge made another home run-robbing catch early in the game.
Still, the Yankees couldn’t avoid elimination this time. Their season is over, and their 41st American League pennant must wait.
Sabathia, one of only three players remaining from New York’s last World Series team in 2009, was unable to save them again in maybe his last game with the Yankees. The big left-hander was done in the fourth inning of the decisive Game 7 of the AL Championship Series, a 4-0 loss to the Houston Astros on Saturday night.
After sweeping the Astros in three games at Yankees Stadium, New York scored just three runs and had 20 hits in the four games at Houston, striking out 48 times.
Joe Girardi’s contract is expiring and he has not said whether he wants to return for an 11th season in the Bronx. Sabathia can become a free agent and Japanese right-hander Mashiro Tanaka can opt out of his contract.
New York had avoided elimination four times already this postseason, winning the AL wild card game and then overcoming a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-five AL Division Series to beat Cleveland. That included the clinching Game 5 that Sabathia started, though he got a no decision in the Yankees’ only road playoff win.
Starting in a Game 7 for the first time in his career, Sabathia got three one-pitch groundouts after giving up George Springer’s leadoff single in a seven-pitch first inning.
The Astros second began with Yuli Gurriel’s long drive to right field, but Judge made a running, leaping catch with his left arm fully extended on a ball that appeared headed for the seats.
After Sabathia escaped jams with two runners on in each the second and third innings, Evan Gattis started the Astros fourth with a homer off the left-field facade. The Yankees lefty was done three batters later after Josh Reddick’s first hit of the ALCS put runners at first and second.
Sabathia had been 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts after Yankees losses this year, including his six scoreless innings in Game 3 of the ALCS.
Reliever Tommy Kahnle induced an inning-ending, double-play grounder on his first pitch, so Sabathia allowed only one run in 3 1/3 innings. But the 37-year-old left-hander allowed five hits and three walks without any strikeouts.
Not even Judge was tall enough to take a homer away from Jose Altuve when he hit a ball into the right-field seats in the fifth. After consecutive singles put two more Astros on base, former Yankees catcher Brian McCann hit a two-run double into the right-field corner for a four-run lead.
Judge, the rookie slugger who led the AL with 52 homers, hit four in the postseason — three in the ALCS. But he also set a major league playoff record with 27 strikeouts in 48 at-bats in the playoffs.
The closest the Yankees came to scoring in Game 7 was in the fifth when Greg Bird had a leadoff double but was later thrown out at the plate for the second time in the ALCS — the fifth time New York had a runner thrown out on the bases.
Bird had gone to third on Charlie Morton’s wild pitch and ran home when Todd Frazier hit a weak grounder. Third baseman Alex Bregman charged forward, scooped up the ball and made a perfect throw to McCann’s mitt, and Bird slid into the tag.