They’re coming home for the World Series and they’re not coming empty handed. The Yankees capped an improbable run through the playoffs with a win in the ALDS before getting past Cleveland in the ALCS to advance to the World Series.
New York had little to play for except for pride, although the Yankees would have preferred to keep alive the quest for the first championship since 2009 if they could. But that’s not what mattered to them, which is why they embraced winning as a matter of pride rather than accomplishment.
“I don’t know if there’s any other way to say it,” second baseman Starlin Castro said. “We are not trying to win a title this year. We were just trying to get back to the World Series.”
“As of late, we’ve been doing some things that’s crazy, a lot of great things,” catcher Gary Sanchez said. “This is great, to be back where we should be.”
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Now, the Yankees are playing for a championship. New York players were excited for their trip home, but more so to prepare for the Red Sox and a chance to win the first championship for the franchise since 2001.
“It means everything,” New York manager Joe Girardi said. “To not only for the Yankees, but for New York City and New York State and for the United States. To all the people of New York, to have these guys fighting on the last day to do it, this is why they play the game.
“This is why we put on these jerseys and we went to the stadium and go to work. To take a lot of this in and see the [backdrop] and it’s exciting for the fans. We’re going to try to get a win, make history.”
Not that the Yankees, who have come from behind to win 11 times in the postseason, don’t know how to play to win.
“What’s important is to understand that you don’t have to score 10 runs a game to win,” second baseman Starlin Castro said. “You know that when you have Mariano Rivera warming up to get the final out or closing the game and get the save, or Alex Rodriguez warming up in the bullpen, these are some of the best clutch players in the game, guys that have been doing it all year. So we just know how to play and how to win. Hopefully we can do it.”
That night in Cleveland, they came home with two-time Cy Young winner Luis Severino and the big bat of slugger Giancarlo Stanton hitting as one of the solutions they needed to beat the Indians. Both arrived, each with a new title to chase.
But it didn’t happen. The Yankees faced a determined Red Sox team that has won seven of the past eight World Series, and Severino got a no-decision in Game 3.
That left a question on Oct 22. Would they go into Tuesday night with a first-time World Series winner? Would they succumb to one of the most enigmatic pennant races in recent history that had them visiting Fenway Park with the greatest team in franchise history?
Like great shakers of the universe, they threw off the tight grip on their sense of accomplishment. They waited for Tuesday night and the outcome of the West Coast playoff between Los Angeles and Houston, and all that was left was to focus on winning a title.
Now, they have no choice.
“The feeling of winning is the best feeling in the world,” Sabathia said. “Even when you lose. It’s just the feeling of winning and enjoying it and the good vibes. We’re just going to play the game hard and don’t get ahead of ourselves.”
Notes: Girardi was asked about how much longer he will manage the Yankees. “No clue,” he said. “We’re trying to win the World Series and then if we don’t win the World Series then I’m going to try to get another job. And I’ll wait and see what happens after that.”