NEW YORK -- Didi Gregorius and the Yankees refused to go down without a fight in Tuesday's 8-4 American League Wild Card Game victory.
With the Yankees already trailing by three runs against the Twins before their first turn at bat, Gregorius stepped to the plate with runners on the corners with one out. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat -- a 95.1 mph two-seam fastball -- Gregorius bested Minnesota starter Ervin Santana, tying the game with one swing of the bat. The three-run home run brought the Yanks back to even at 3, and traveled a projected 391 feet at 101.7 mph into the right-field seats, according to Statcast™.
• ALDS Game 1: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1
"It was unbelievable," said Gregorius. "The crowd, everybody's cheering, it was packed. They showed why they are the best fans here. It was really important for us."
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The Yankees' victory sent them to the AL Division Series presented by Doosan against the Indians, with Game 1 on Thursday in Cleveland.
"These are the games when you want to be really locked in, because it's a one-and-done game," said Gregorius. "Now we're going to start a series against the best team. All we can do is play the game and try and stay ready for it."
Gregorius jacked 25 home runs during the regular season, setting the Yankees' single-season record for home runs from a shortstop. None of those 25 were bigger than this one, though, especially given the predicament the Yanks found themselves in early.
"It's so much," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said during an in-game ESPN interview about Gregorius' importance to the team. "Eighty-seven RBIs, he missed a month of the season. Defensively, what he does and how he's the captain of the infield. You know, we've kind of put him in the four slot when we had some people that got hurt and he's filled in great there, and we just left it there."
Starter Luis Severino surrendered a three-spot to the Twins and recorded just one out before departing. James Dozier led off the game with a homer to left -- the first leadoff home run in Wild Card Game history. Three batters later, Eddie Rosario plated himself and Jorge Polanco, who walked, with a line-drive home run into the first row of the short porch in right, shocking and silencing much of the Yankee Stadium crowd. Severino gave way to Chad Green following a double to Max Kepler later in the inning.
But the Yankees' bats did not leave the home fans in a sour mood for long. Brett Gardner led off the home half with a walk and Aaron Judge singled, setting up runners on the corners with no one out when Gary Sanchez popped up in foul ground. That brought up Gregorius, who erased the Yanks' deficit and brought jubilation to the Bronx.
"He was just patient. He was patient," said Judge. "He tried to jump on one early. This place was rocking, it was incredible."
Said Gregorius, "It was a really great feeling for me to be able to come up big, to tie the game right there. We got the fans and everybody right back in the game, and from there, we kept it going. That just shows how good we are as a team. It's not just me. It's amazing how we feed off each other. It's a team that never gives up."