Yanks' kids keep growing with WC Game win
NEW YORK -- Consider the torch officially passed in the Bronx.
Hours after Derek Jeter formally assumed control of the Marlins, the Yankees did what they hadn't done since he was still wearing pinstripes: They won a postseason game, beating the Twins, 8-4, on Tuesday night in the American League Wild Card Game and sealing a meeting with the Indians in the AL Division Series presented by Doosan.
:: AL Wild Card Game schedule and coverage ::
It was the franchise's first playoff win since Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS, which turned out to be the final win of Jeter's legendary postseason career. "The Captain" broke his ankle in Game 1 of AL Championship Series and the Tigers went on to sweep the Yankees, who didn't get back to the postseason before Jeter retired at the end of 2014.
So while Jeter is just starting the process of rebuilding the Marlins, the Yanks' rebuilding plan has reached its next phase.
There was cause for concern following an untimely first-inning implosion by Luis Severino, but his teammates picked him up the way Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Mariano Rivera used to for each other with regularity.
Didi Gregorius -- Jeter's successor at shortstop -- delivered the big home run that ensured this wouldn't be a repeat of the Yankees' 2015 AL Wild Card Game loss to Dallas Keuchel and the Astros, bringing the shell-shocked Yankee Stadium crowd back to life.
Then the kids took over. Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and Aaron Judge all played key roles as the Yanks took the lead for good in the fourth, while the bullpen put forth an impressive effort, tossing 8 2/3 innings of one-run ball.
The lights weren't too bright for any of them, which is good news, since they're only going to get brighter as they move forward in the postseason.
"Once the first pitch was thrown, it was the same old game that we've been playing since we were little kids," Judge said. "All this stuff, the pregame hype and intros, kind of gets you nervous and gets you excited, gets the blood flowing a little bit. Once that game starts, it's time to go out there and play. It's still the same game."
It was a team effort in every sense of the word; the first of what the Yankees hope are many more to come.
"There's a lot of talent in that clubhouse, a lot of young talent and guys that are really believing in themselves and really figuring out how to win baseball games," said Player Page for David Robertson, one of three players on the club from the Yanks' 2009 World Series-winning team. "It's been a lot of fun to be on this team. There's an electric atmosphere. I feel like the entire team never gives up."
That was a trait that Jeter's teams always possessed. The same DNA seems to have been passed on to the next generation, evidenced by Tuesday's gritty victory.
Winning 91 games this season put the Yankees ahead of schedule in their rebuilding plan. With a postseason win under their belt, we can no longer call it that. This team is ready to win, no matter their age.
"We're trying to reset the clock and move forward," general manager Brian Cashman said. "Hopefully it's going to benefit us."
We haven't seen the Yanks take this approach in more than 20 years, when a young homegrown group seemingly came out of nowhere to win the World Series in 1996. That team went on to win titles in 1998, '99 and 2000, becoming one of the great dynasties in the baseball history.
Nobody is ready to place the 2017 Yankees in that class, but all championship teams start somewhere. Perhaps Tuesday was just the first of many wins for the Yanks this month and for many Octobers to come.
"I was part of '96 as the assistant GM, then in '98 and moving forward. Between the Riveras, the Petitittes, Jeters, Posadas, [Ramiro] Mendozas, there were a lot of young guys," Cashman said. "I don't think anybody can be compared to that group. You probably won't see a group like that. This group, whatever group it's going to be, we're just trying to win one. That group had a lot of crazy success that typically is going to be hard to come by."
Before the game, Joe Girardi was asked what it would mean for the Yankees to win their first playoff game since 2012. He dismissed the idea that ending the five-year drought was significant, but he made it clear that Tuesday's game was critical for his team.
"I don't really look at it as we haven't won a playoff game since 2012. I look at it as we want to move on," Girardi said. "That's what's important. That's what these guys have worked so hard for."
That work paid off, giving the Yanks their first postseason win without Jeter since 1995. That it happened to be the maiden victory for Judge, Sanchez, Bird and Co. is a coincidence, but there's something poetic about it nonetheless.
"I think it means a lot," Girardi said of his young core's first postseason win. "Because a lot of them showed up in a big way."