Loss in ALDS Game 2 pushed Yankees to ALCS versus Astros

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 11: Aroldis Chapman
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 11: Aroldis Chapman /

Instead of withering away after their ALDS Game 2 defeat, the Yankees used it to take the pressure off of themselves and rally around manager Joe Girardi.

Despite the fact that the Yankees were the American League wild-card winner, set to take on a team that won 102 regular season games, including 22 straight at one point, there was pressure from the very start to not only compete, but beat the Indians.

And after the 13-inning Game 2 marathon that concluded with a 9-8 defeat, mostly due to Girardi’s inept timing, the pressure to win the series all but dissipated. With it came the assumption that the Yanks would soon be looking for a new manager after 10 long years.

But a funny thing happened on the way back to the Bronx for Game 3. This team came together.

Sure the collection of veteran stars, uber prospects and players just now entering their primes had by all estimations, played over their heads in 2017. Yet when you win 91 games and finish only two games back of first place in your division, expectations are raised in the postseason — even if you weren’t expected to compete until next year, at the earliest.

Did anyone really expect the Yankees to put up six runs in Game 2 against likely AL Cy Young Winner Corey Kluber? No, but they did. And that gave way to the possibility and confidence that the Bombers could jump on him early yet again in the deciding Game 5.

When Sir Didi Gregorius took Kluber yard for his first of two crucial dingers, reality set in not only for the two teams on the field but the millions watching at home, that this Yankees team is something special, from 1-to-25.

More from Yankees News

An early lead for a pitcher means everything. It allowed CC Sabathia to quickly settle in and pitch as if it were 2009 all over again. Sabathia, needeth be worried about pinpoint accuracy with every pitch. He instead went out and had fun, which was evident in his sliding grab to save a bunt base hit early in the game.

A lot of credit needs to go to Todd Frazier as well. One of the newest members of the club, Frazier became the fire starter for the Yankees. Whether it was his double down the line in Game 4, stellar defensive grabs throughout or the rallying cry you’d hear each time the TV cameras cut to the dugout, Frazier’s passion exudes confidence. He genuinely loves baseball. Just look at his heads-up base running in the top of the ninth inning of Game 5.

Sure, Frazier could have been content moving from first to third on Brett Gardner’s RBI single. But no, an errant toss from Jay Bruce, that skipped away from Francisco Lindor allowed the Toddfather to motor home, diving in headfirst for the proverbial nail in the coffin.

Following the series-clinching 5-2 win, Frazier told ESPN that the club rallied around its embattled manager because that’s what they’ve done all season.

"“This one is for Joe,” Frazier said of embattled Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “He got a lot of criticism after that second game, and we talked a lot, me and him. I couldn’t be happier for him. I couldn’t be happier for him.”“A lot of criticism went his way and it shouldn’t have, and we came together as a team for him. This one is definitely for Joe,” Frazier said."

Honestly, you can look all around the club and see players that stepped at monumental times, even if it didn’t necessarily show in their stats.

Take Aaron Judge for instance. Although he set a new record for strikeouts in a playoff series (16), without his grab over the right field wall in the Yankees’ 1-0 Game 3 win, or his two-run double in Game 4, this series may have ended up much different.

Asked by NJ Advance Media if he’d be able to clear his head in time for the start of Game 1 of the ALCS in Houston on Friday, Judge was all smiles.

Next: Kahnle in; Betances out

"“Oh, yeah. Whenever you get a chance to play in the ALCS … every day is a new day. That’s the beauty of baseball. Just regroup and get ready for Houston.”"