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Yanks' ALDS comeback takes Girardi off hook

Veteran skipper relieved after costly decision in Game 2 loss
MLB.com @BryanHoch

CLEVELAND -- The closed-door meeting that saved the Yankees' postseason took place prior to Game 3 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan, as Joe Girardi gathered his club and confessed that he felt "horrible" about the events that had taken place in the sixth inning of a Game 2 loss that had his club down 0-2 in the best-of-five set.

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CLEVELAND -- The closed-door meeting that saved the Yankees' postseason took place prior to Game 3 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan, as Joe Girardi gathered his club and confessed that he felt "horrible" about the events that had taken place in the sixth inning of a Game 2 loss that had his club down 0-2 in the best-of-five set.

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:: ALDS schedule and coverage ::

There was no way to correct the non-challenge of Lonnie Chisenhall's hit-by-pitch, but Girardi had seen the Yankees overcome plenty of adversity in their 165 games to that point. Now Girardi was the one who needed to be picked up, and the players responded, taking their manager off the hook with three straight wins, culminating with a 5-2 victory over the Indians on Wednesday night in Game 5 that has New York back in the AL Championship Series presented by Camping World.

"I talked about just winning one game and how all year long that I believed in them from the day we left Spring Training, and I believe in them now," Girardi said. "You've always had good at-bats. ... You've never quit. Continue to have each other's back, and let's win one game."

Todd Frazier was the first player to speak up, shouting, "Let's go!" to lead the Yanks onto the field.

"This one's for Joe. I'll be honest with you," Frazier said. "He got a lot of criticism after that second game. We talked a lot, me and him, and I couldn't be happier for him. A lot of criticism went his way that shouldn't have, and we came together as a team for him. And this one's definitely for Joe."

Video: Frazier on winning series for Joe Girardi

Girardi told his players that he "screwed up" by not challenging the Chisenhall hit-by-pitch in Game 2, and a sold-out crowd at Yankee Stadium let him hear it, booing the manager soundly during introductions before Game 3.

"Things happen. Nobody's perfect," Didi Gregorius said. "Let that be in the past and focus on what's going on now, and that's basically what we're doing. We don't worry about what everybody says. We stayed focused. [Girardi] also talked to us and everything. That's the past. Now we focus on the now."

While Girardi had steeled himself for that eventuality, saying that he warned his wife and children that a Bronx cheer was likely heading his way, it did not make the experience any less painful.

"It's easy to look back and say, 'I wish I would have done something different,'" Brett Gardner said. "But at the time, things are moving so fast. It is what it is. We're moving on and we're excited about it."

Masahiro Tanaka's terrific effort and Greg Bird's clutch homer provided the salve, extending the series to Game 4.

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Girardi on Didi's offensive performance

"Joe's had our back all year, and we'll always have his back, through the good times and the bad times," Aaron Judge said.

When the Yankees knocked out Trevor Bauer in the second inning on their way to winning Game 4, forcing the ALDS back to Cleveland, Girardi began to envision what could be his potential redemption.

"It turns the page. The storyline changed," Yanks general manager Brian Cashman said. "Instead of the focus being on a mistake made that cost something, it's now in the past. The focus is on a team winning something rather than an individual issue that occurred in a series."

A decade earlier, Joe Torre's decision not to pull his Yankees off the field amid a swarm of Lake Erie midges had registered as the longtime skipper's greatest regret. For Girardi, Wednesday's victory in Game 5 downgraded the Chisenhall flap to just a footnote in what has otherwise been a largely successful managerial career.

"The difference between Friday and today is about as big as you can get," Girardi said. "I don't think, at any point in my career, that I felt worse than I did on Friday. As I expressed many times, it's the hurt for the other people that is so hard for me. So the emotions, I mean, these guys had my back and they fought and fought. And again, they beat a really, really good team."

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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