The Yankees waited and waited. Their fans waited and waited. No one believed they would ever see their injured starting first baseman in a Yankees uniform again this season. No one, but the player himself.
Yankees first baseman, Greg Bird, back in July believed when no one thought he would be contributing to these 2017 Yankees following two surgeries on an ankle that was injured in the last days of Spring Training, forcing him out of action by the end of April.
It got so bad during the days of endless rehab that some coward of a sportswriter questioned his “manhood” and desire to play. Yankees manager, Joe Girardi, and countless teammates immediately went to Bird’s defense to combat the story which went viral. But no one among his supporters ever went as far as supporting Bird’s claim that he would play again this season.
In his absence, the team was almost torn apart when Brian Cashman signed Chris Carter to a one year $3 million deal, all but forcing Girardi to insert him into the regular lineup. Finally, when the strikeouts mounted and the home runs came sparingly, Girardi threw up his hands, telling Cashman in an unprecedented display of defiance, get rid of this guy.
Carter’s release shined the spotlight even more on the glaring hole at first base, and it was left to Chase Headley to volunteer to fill the gap. Cashman helped to make the move easier for Girardi by bringing in a third baseman, Todd Frazier, in a deal with the White Sox. Headley excelled, and it is questionable if the Yankees would be where they are today if he hadn’t.
Meanwhile, Bird was kicking his rehab up a notch and still insisting it wouldn’t be long before he was ready to play.
The turning point for Bird came at the end of July when he decided once and for all, it is what it is saying:
And so it was last night that Bird stepped to the plate in a scoreless game in the seventh inning and deposited a pitch from the Indians ace reliever, Andrew Miller, into the second deck giving the Yankees the only run they would need to play another day. Here’s the video
It was a majestic towering blast that Bird stood and watched as though soaking in the moment confirming to himself, yes, I’ve done it, just like I said I would. Sprinting around the bases a la Kirk Gibson when he hit his “I don’t believe what I just saw” game-winning home run in Game One of the 1988 World Series for the Dodgers.
Pumped up and with grimaced shouts to the dugout as he rounded first, Bird lifted the Yankees to a win in a game that previously was a story about two outstanding pitching performances. The Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka, was masterful when he needed to be, tossing seven innings of shutout baseball, three hits, and seven strikeouts.
Indians starter, Carlos Carasco was nearly as good, striking out seven in his 5.2 innings, also not surrendering a run. But as predicted, the game would be decided by the bullpens of both teams, and last night the Yankees bullpen ruled the planet.
Seemingly fully recovered from his overuse by Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs in last year’s World Series, Aroldis Chapman delivered the five-out save, with four of those outs recorded by strikeout.
In the end, it was vindication and redemption not only for Bird and Chapman, who at one point this season lost his job as closer but for the entire Yankees team who answered the call in a do or go home scenario.
In a previous post, I argued that the Indians just might be a better team than the Yankees this year, and there is no way they will lose three in a row after winning the first two.
The odds say there is no change in that. But the hope and the dream is still alive in the Bronx, and that’s all that matters when the Yankees take the field tonight for Game Four. Luis Severino, who has his own story of redemption from Game One on the line, makes the start for the Yankees.
He’ll be opposed by Game One hero, Trevor Bauer, who had that curveball working against Yankees hitters, a pitch he threw 40% of the time. The usual story in baseball is that familiarity breeds success and unless Bauer, knowing that, moves away from this pitch in tonight’s game, the Yankees will be ready and more patient at the plate.
One more time. One more game. It’s been the story of the Yankees 2017 season since the beginning of September. A flight to Cleveland for Game Five will put a cap on a season like we have not seen for nearly two decades. Why not?
Contact me with your thoughts and thanks for the read.