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11 defining moments of 2019 for Yankees

September 19, 2019

NEW YORK -- If you ask manager Aaron Boone who deserves the most credit for the Yankees securing their first American League East title since 2012, the manager does not hesitate, pointing a finger toward his clubhouse door. Subscribing to a “next man up” mindset, his players overcame an unprecedented

NEW YORK -- If you ask manager Aaron Boone who deserves the most credit for the Yankees securing their first American League East title since 2012, the manager does not hesitate, pointing a finger toward his clubhouse door. Subscribing to a “next man up” mindset, his players overcame an unprecedented number of injuries to reach the first checkpoint on the path to a 28th championship.

During the earliest days of Spring Training, Boone repeatedly told his players that their first objective was to steal the division back from the defending World Series champion Red Sox, then to do damage in the postseason. He also frequently reminded them that it would take more than 25 players to accomplish those goals, telling every player in camp that they would have an opportunity to help this season. Boone couldn’t have guessed how true that would be.

“They, to a man, have done an amazing job,” Boone said. “We've had so many players -- sometimes unexpected guys -- that have had a significant impact on us being in this position. Almost every guy that has walked through those doors has had a role. That's been pretty cool to see and really gratifying.”

Here are 11 of the Yankees’ most memorable moments so far this season:

1. April 17, 2019: Gardy party
Brett Gardner picked a terrific time to slug his 100th career home run, connecting for a seventh-inning grand slam that propelled the Yankees to a 5-3 victory over the Red Sox. To celebrate Gardner’s blast, the Yanks briefly transformed their clubhouse at Yankee Stadium into a pulsing nightclub, complete with a fog machine -- their first of many visits to “Club 161” this season.

2. April 30, 2019: CC3K
CC Sabathia became the 17th pitcher in Major League history to record 3,000 career strikeouts, reaching the milestone by fanning former teammate John Ryan Murphy in the Yankees’ 3-1 loss to the D-backs at Chase Field. Having announced that 2019 would be his final season, Sabathia was the third left-hander to reach 3,000 strikeouts, joining Steve Carlton and Randy Johnson.

3. May 7, 2019: It ain’t over
The Yankees were down to their final two outs when Gio Urshela and DJ LeMahieu delivered big hits, lifting them to a 5-4 victory over the Mariners. Urshela atoned for an eighth-inning error with a game-tying home run that landed in Monument Park and LeMahieu lashed the deciding hit, singling home Cameron Maybin with the winning run.

4. June 29-30, 2019: London calling
For the first time, the historic rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox was played on foreign soil, taking the field for two games at London Stadium. The Yanks swept the series from the defending World Series champions as the teams combined for 50 runs, 65 hits, 16 doubles and 10 homers in Europe.

5. July 16, 2019: All rise
One swing after cracking a deep eighth-inning drive that landed in foul territory, Aaron Judge unloaded on a two-run blast that cleared the right-field wall, giving the Yankees their first lead of the night against the Rays. Judge’s drive sparked a six-run rally in the Yanks’ 8-3 victory, with Didi Gregorius later adding his fourth career grand slam.

6. July 18, 2019: Savages in the box
Boone unintentionally created a rallying cry for his club during an argument with home-plate umpire Brennan Miller, proclaiming that his hitters are “savages in the … box.” The tirade was captured by television microphones and widely distributed on social media. Within a week, Yankees players were wearing T-shirts with various incarnations of the “Savages” moniker.

7. July 23, 2019: Air Aaron
Aaron Hicks produced arguably the best defensive play seen in the Majors this season, ranging into the left-center-field gap at Minnesota’s Target Field to preserve the Yankees’ 14-12, 10-inning victory over the Twins. The wild contest featured five lead changes or ties in the final three innings, with Hicks completing what he called “a do or die play” that robbed Max Kepler.

8. Aug. 12, 2019: It’s Gleyber Day … again
Gleyber Torres fattened his numbers against Orioles pitching all season, to the hilarious chagrin of announcer Gary Thorne, who incredulously wondered why the Birds continued to pitch to him. Torres made history by belting three homers against the Orioles in a doubleheader, his 12th and 13th vs. Baltimore pitching. Torres also claimed a Major League record by recording five multihomer games against an opponent.

9. Aug. 31, 2019: 'Yes, let’s go home!'
LeMahieu jumped on the first pitch he saw in the 11th inning, driving a solo home run over the wall in right-center field to lift the Yankees to a 4-3 victory over the Athletics at Yankee Stadium. LeMahieu had been hitless in four at-bats to that point, with three strikeouts, and said that he “just didn’t want to strike out again.” It was the Yanks’ first game-ending homer of the year, but not their last.

10. Sept. 1, 2019: Ford fiesta
Mike Ford became the first Yankees rookie to hit a game-ending pinch-hit home run, coming off the bench to lift them to a 5-4 victory over the Athletics. Ford’s blast followed Brett Gardner’s game-tying shot off of Oakland’s Liam Hendriks, completing New York’s comeback from what was a four-run deficit entering the bottom of the eighth inning.

11. Sept. 19, 2019: Division champs
The Yankees clinched the AL East title for the first time since 2012, popping corks in the home clubhouse at Yankee Stadium following a 9-1 victory over the Angels. The clinch was powered by a strong Masahiro Tanaka effort and four homers, with Gardner and LeMahieu each driving in three runs. It came in New York’s 100th victory of the season, matching its win total from 2018.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.