The Yankees used three laser shots and a shut-down bullpen to fend off the Twins at Yankee Stadium last night. Now, the team that was supposed to be next year heads to Cleveland to take on the Indians in a best-of-five series beginning Thursday night. Who would have thought?
Yankees players talk about it all the time. As sportswriters, we mimic the words the players tell us, but no one except the 25 guys in that clubhouse appreciates the “oneness” of this team, and how that quality has lifted the team to heights no one could ever imagine.
On a night when Joe Girardi sent his 23-year old right-hander, Luis Severino, to the mound as his starting pitcher in front of 45,000 screaming fans, only to watch him falter by allowing three quick runs and recording only one out, the Yankees could have listened to the quiet echoing through the Stadium, and mailed the rest of the game in.
Except, they didn’t. With the quick hook, Girardi promised he would use, the game turned on the bullpen Brian Cashman had built just for this purpose back in July.
One after another, they trudged in from the pen firing strikes that ultimately sent thirteen Twins batters back to their dugout without putting a ball in play. The box score line shows the procession of doom for the Twins led first by Chad Green, then David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, and finally, the re-born closer who lost his job only a few weeks ago, Aroldis Chapman.
Meanwhile, the Yankees bats used only nine hits to score eight runs. Most of the damage, however, came the old Yankees way, via the home run. Three laser shots, the first of which came from Didi Gregorius, lifted the Yankees in the bottom of the first inning that knotted the game at 3-3 brought the juice back into the crowd.
Brett Gardner added another shot that took about two seconds to land in the right-field upper deck. And finally, wouldn’t you know it, Aaron Judge sent a screaming line drive into the opposite field bleachers, putting the proverbial icing on the cake for the Yankees.
Are you feelin’ it, yet?
Matt Marrone of ESPN caught some of that feeling after the game when he spoke to Aaron Judge:
“Yankee Stadium was absolutely electric Tuesday night — and the hero of the AL wild-card game, Aaron Judge, noticed. “I was feeding off the crowd all night. They came in force tonight. They were behind us even when we were down early. I was just feeding off them,” the rookie slugger said in the champagne-soaked clubhouse after the game. “I can’t really describe it to be honest. The couple games I’ve played, Yankees-Red Sox here, it was pretty electric, it was probably the best crowds I’ve seen. But this was times 10, times 20 that.”
And so it goes as the scene moves to Cleveland where the Yankees will face another test against a team which finished the season as hot, if not hotter than the Yankees.
Corey Kluber, this year’s all but crowned Cy Young winner, goes against Sonny Gray, who has been anything but unhittable in his last few starts during the regular season. But again, there’s just something about this Yankees team……..