Before Sunday night, the last time the Yankees won a 1-0 playoff game was Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS, which was the Derek Jeter Flip Game. The Yankees trailed 2-0 in that series but came back to win three straight against Oakland.
The Yankees took Game 3 on Sunday, keeping the season alive with a 1-0 win over the Indians. Masahiro Tanaka, David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman combined to shutout Cleveland.
Greg Bird provided the offense with a seventh inning blast to the second deck in right field off Andrew Miller.
“I mean, plain and simple, I’m not ready to be done playing and I don’t think the rest of the team is,” said Bird, who has now homered in two straight games.
Weeks ago, Joe Girardi was asked if he thought Bird could contribute in the postseason. The skipper said he wouldn’t bet on it. “I bet on it,” Bird said. “To be honest with you, I bet on it. I bet on myself. And I got a little taste in 2015 and I’ve wanted nothing more than to be back.”
Bird burst on the scene in 2015 and was part of the team that took an AL Wild Card. He homered 11 times in 46 games. Bird also had one of the three hits the Yankees finished with in the wild card game.
Bird would miss the entire 2016 season as he recovered from right shoulder labrum surgery. While Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez took the Bronx by storm, Bird missed 103 games this season with a right ankle bruise. The team was 38-21 with him on the active roster and 53-50 during his time on the DL. He returned on August 26, and hit eight homers in 29 games.
Bird overcame adversity in 2017, as his injury and his commitment to being on the field was questioned by someone in the front office in a newspaper article. Of course there was the physical pain and not knowing when he would return.
“What got me through it? My family and my close friends,” Bird said. “I have a great group, really, and they know who they are and they’re really special to me. And they know when I need my space and they need to be there for me, so really that’s what got me through it. And that’s not to say it was easy. At times, it was hard. I mean, just watching from afar, never fun.”
Girardi was booed before the game but it was his decision to let Bird hit against the tremendous southpaw Andrew Miller that was the difference. Instead of using Chase Headley or Matt Holliday as a pinch-hitter, he took a chance that his young first baseman would deliver. “As I’ve said about Greg Bird, I think he’s built for this park,” Girardi said. “I really do. And the thing about Miller is the splits are basically identical. I mean, lefties actually hit a little bit higher and it was the same when we were here. So I chose to go with him.”
The homer was no Yankee Stadium short porch special. This was a no-doubter into the second deck as Bird yelled “Let’s Go!” twice to his teammates in the dugout after the ball left his bat.
It was an emotional moment in what is the first playoff win of Bird’s career. “It was just an incredible experience, an incredible game, and we’re not done,” Bird said. “So that’s the best part of it too is we get to keep this thing going and keep playing baseball.