Their first full season together with the Yankees for the blossoming young power trio of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird has advanced to within one win of their first trip to the World Series. How's that for a brisk rebuilding plan or a ...
Their first full season together with the Yankees for the blossoming young power trio of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird has advanced to within one win of their first trip to the World Series.
How’s that for a brisk rebuilding plan or a transition on the fly or whatever you want to call what the Yankees amazingly have been able to pull off in 2017, regardless of what happens from here?
The contributions from the starting rotation to the bullpen to the veteran position players to the middle of the infield to the GM’s and the manager’s seats have been plentiful and significant straight through, but the so-called Baby Bombers notably combined to drive in four of the Yankees’ five runs on Wednesday night, leading the way offensively for a third straight victory at home in Game 5 of the ALCS, a clean 5-0 victory over the Astros at the Stadium.
“Next thing you know, they get hot again and away we go,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “These guys are playing their first full season. Watch out.”
Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge celebrate after defeating the Astros in Game 5 at Yankee Stadium.
Take that as a warning shot to the American League for years to come, but more specifically for the Astros, who now must win both games at Minute Maid Park beginning Friday to prevent the Yanks from getting back to the Fall Classic for the first time since 2009 in search of a record 28th championship in franchise history.
That they are this close, this soon, is beyond remarkable when you consider that Sanchez didn’t make it to the majors full-time until embarking on that rookie home-run binge of his last August, or that Bird missed all of last season and most of this one with two major injuries, or that Judge, well, Judge you know the Paul Bunyon-level tale by now:
From looking completely lost at the plate during his trial period late last season to bursting onto the scene to emerge as the MLB’s newest and perhaps biggest star in the first half of 2017 season and finishing with a strong September kick for an AL-best 52 homers to reaffirm himself as a legitimate Top-2 candidate (with Houston’s Jose Altuve) for league MVP despite a severe slump immediately after the All-Star break.
Aaron Judge has bounced back in a big way for the Bombers.
(Al Bello/Getty Images)
Judge and Sanchez also have endured lengthy stretches without much offensive success during their first postseason taste. But they’ve essentially combined to spearhead the lineup’s rejuvenation and lead the Yanks back into a 3-2 series lead after dropping the first two games entering Game 6 against Justin Verlander, who went the distance in Game 2.
“It’s great, but we’re not done. We’ve got an important game coming up (Friday), and we’re focused on that,” Judge said. “With a team like Houston, you can’t let them up, you’ve gotta keep it on them.”
To do so, the Yanks will have to take a similar approach — which Judge described as a combination of aggressiveness and patience, if that makes sense — against Verlander in Game 6 as they did against Keuchel, who had throttled them in the series opener and entered with a 1.09 career ERA against them.
Gary Sanchez has come alive since the start of the ALCS.
(Howard Simmons/New York Daily News)
The methodical takedown of the former AL Cy Young-winning lefty began when Bird laced an RBI single into the right-field corner for the first run in the second inning.
“That’s the biggest thing, getting that first run. With someone like that, you have to get him early when you can. If he gets in a groove like he usually does, he’s unhittable,” Judge said of Keuchel. “But that’s Greg Bird, that’s what I expect out of him, that’s what he’s shown me through the minor leagues, through the short time he’s been up here, that’s Greg Bird, man. He’s a fantastic hitter, probably our best hitter, and he’s proving it right now in the postseason.”
Indeed, Bird improbably has made his way back into a major contributory role after his season appeared lost as recently as late August following ankle surgery.
Yankees vs. Astros 2017 American League Championship Series
“Have I ever had more fun? Honestly, no. It’s a lot of fun,” Bird said. “Baseball has ups and downs, you go through things, it’s life. Just roll with it. But I appreciate playing, I don’t take it for granted any day.”
Of course, Judge and Sanchez have endured similar rollercoaster rides through much of October.
The former has struck out 24 times already in the postseason, but Judge has ripped multiple key hits the past three days — including homers in the previous two games, a game-tying double late in Game 4 and another RBI two-bagger inside third for a 2-0 lead on Wednesday.
Greg Bird missed most of this season due to injury.
Sanchez had been mired in an 0-for-18 skid — and dropped a relay throw to the plate on Houston’s winning run in Game 2 – before rapping the game-winning hit in Game 4 and homering and driving in two more runs on Wednesday.
“It feels great to help your team when you have the opportunity on the defensive side and the offensive side,” Sanchez said through his translator. “It’s a long season, there are a lot of ups and downs, but we always stay positive and now we have one more game to get to the World Series.”
That would be an astonishing feat for the breakout power trio in its first full season together.
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