HOUSTON -- The visitors' path to the team buses here snakes through a narrow, concrete-housed hallway underneath Minute Maid Park, a winding walk through three sets of double doors and right past the home clubhouse of the Houston Astros. A place which, early this morning, could have been confused for a nightclub, with music thumping through the other side of the wall on a never-ending loop, and grinning patrons intermittently emerging in damp disarray to collect themselves.
This was the journey that Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres and the other Yankees had to make, one last in-your-face reminder that their season is over, and that the Astros -- who have now knocked the New York Yankees out of the MLB playoffs in three out of the past five seasons -- are moving on to the next round.
There were moments of mutual respect, as well. Aaron Boone, the Yankees' manager, completed his postgame news conference and then paused at the doorway that leads directly into the office of Astros manager A.J. Hinch. He leaned in and waited for Hinch to be extricated from the champagne celebration before congratulating him. Last year, Boone had made a similar gesture after the Yankees were eliminated by the Red Sox, going to see his friend and counterpart Alex Cora -- and he had looked utterly devastated. This year, Boone seemed more circumspect, and maybe he was, having been on the other side of a sudden and stunning walk-off home run, in 2003.
A little while later, members of the Yankees' front office passed quietly, but then Yankees general manager Brian Cashman doubled back and asked for the whereabouts of Hinch. He's finishing his news conference now, Cashman was told, and so Cashman waited five minutes, maybe 10, and when Hinch emerged, wearing the championship hat that he had been handed on the field, Cashman extended a handshake of congratulations.