The 2017 Yankees have been mostly defined by their youth but in a crucial game five, it was a trio of veterans, who know how to win, that led the way.
The Yankees completed one of the greatest series comebacks in franchise history as they rallied from an 0-2 deficit in the American League Divisional Series to stun the Cleveland Indians with a 5-2 win in game five.
It’s been eight years since the Yankees last won the World Series in 2009. On this year’s roster there are three remaining members from that championship team. All three played key roles in an epic victory while showing the young guys how it’s done.
C.C. Sabathia, David Robertson and Brett Gardner were all part of that last Yankee championship team and they pulled a page out of an old lesson plan to help escort this Yankee team into their first historic moment of glory.
Didi Gregorius’ solo home run (thank you Corey Kluber for throwing him a fastball when he had trouble with the breaking stuff) in the top of the first inning set the tone for the game and Sabathia took the cue. It was vintage Sabathia who gave the Yanks just what they needed with 4 1/3 solid innings. His final line showed two runs on five hits but he demoralized the Indians who were looking to get off to a fast start. “That’s CC, that’s who he is,” said Yankee manager Joe Girardi after the game, “That’s who he’s been his whole life. The guy that you can count on.”
The Yankees had a 3-0 lead in the fifth thanks to Didi Gregorius’ second homer, a two run shot off of Kluber in the third . Sabathia, who had been nearly unhittable through the first four innings, got an out in the fifth but gave up four straight hits and the Indians had narrowed the gap to one run.
Enter Robertson who is well versed in these situations. The “never let them see you sweat” reliever has performed this escape act before and with runners at first and second and one out, he got Francisco Lindor to bounce into an inning ending 6-6-3 double play. It was probably the biggest pitch of the game.
The veteran right hander went on to toss 2 2/3 scoreless innings and that led to the eighth where Girardi, who atoned for his brutal mistake in game two with his honesty and some real life “gut” moves, went to Aroldis Chapman for the six out save.
The Yankees went to the ninth with a 3-2 lead and it was Gardner’s time.
In what could be subtitled, “12 pitches to victory,” Gardner put together the most significant at-bat of his career.
The veteran outfielder battled Indians reliever Cody Allen for a 12 pitch at-bat that culminated with a huge, two out, RBI single that also plated a second run on a throwing error by right fielder Jay Bruce. Todd Frazier, who also drew a walk with a tough, nine pitch at bat, was heads up as he scored after the ball got away from Francisco Lindor to give the Yankees a three run lead.
The Yankees had not won a post season game in Cleveland in 19 years and Gardner’s at bat seemed that long. “It was an eternity, especially against a guy that has as good a stuff as Allen does,” he said in the victorious clubhouse.
Gardner got down in the count 1-2 but he fought to extend the at bat. “I fouled off a real good breaking ball,” Gardner said. “After that I figured he (Allen) would stay with the fastball because I got the big guy (Aaron Judge) on deck behind me.”
Judge, who struck out four times in the series for a third time, combined with Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird to go 0 for 13 with 10 strikeouts so the veteran leadership was sorely needed.
Lesson learned with a class trip to Houston.