NEW YORK -- The Yankees disregarded the pundits and experts who forecast that their 2017 campaign was destined to be a rebuilding year, winning 91 games in the regular season and seven more in the postseason to finish one win shy of the World Series.
"I do think that the future is bright," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "We've got a lot of good stuff that is already in place and we've got more good stuff coming. I thought everybody got a chance to see that play out on the baseball stage this year. It has a chance to play out that way even further in the future."
Here are five of the Yankees' best moments of 2017:
5. The comeback
We should have known that this Yankees team was going to be something special all the way back in the season's first month. Down eight runs to the Orioles in the sixth inning on April 28, New York stormed all the way back. Jacoby Ellsbury hit a grand slam, Aaron Judge homered twice and Starlin Castro hit a game-tying two-run blast as part of a three-run ninth inning.
Matthew Holliday launched a three-run homer in the 10th and the Yankees celebrated a 14-11 win over Baltimore, a game that featured eight homers (five by New York). After the contest, Holliday lauded the 25-year-old Judge as "probably the most gifted baseball player I think I've ever been around."
"You just look at the guy in batting practice and he hits the ball 550 feet," Holliday said. "He can run and he can throw at 6-foot-7, 275 pounds. You just don't see it. I haven't seen anything like it. It's fun to watch; he's fun to watch. I think the whole stadium stops when he comes up to bat. That doesn't happen all the time."
4. Gardner plants one
A frigid wind was blowing in from Lake Michigan with the Yankees down to their final out on the afternoon of May 5 and Brett Gardner standing in the batter's box.
Cubs hurler Hector Rondon snapped off an 83-mph slider that Gardner launched over the bricks and ivy in right field for a three-run homer, giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead. Closer Albertin Chapman, who had received his 2016 Cubs World Series ring just hours earlier, rapidly warmed up and locked down the save.
"I think we've just got a resilient group of guys," Gardner said. "We love to win and we hate to lose. I think that's important. We established that early on, even in Spring Training. Sometimes that doesn't carry over into the regular season, but for us, it has so far. Hopefully we can keep it up."
3. All Rise!
In a season that was filled with remarkable moments for Judge, the American League's unanimous Rookie of the Year, his performance at the T-Mobile Home Run Derby in July will not be soon forgotten. Leading the Majors with 30 homers at that time, Judge lived up to the hype, slamming nearly four miles' worth of homers -- including four that traveled more than 500 feet -- to win the competition at Marlins Park in Miami.
Judge overcame 22 first-round blasts by the Marlins' Justin Bour and a dozen long balls from the Dodgers' Cody Bellinger in the second. Judge slammed 11 homers in the finals to defeat the Twins' Miguel Sano. In all, Judge produced 47 home runs in 76 swings.
"It was a blast," Judge said. "I enjoyed every minute of it -- watching the other guys swing, coming here early and talking to the media. Everything about [that night] was fantastic."
2. On to October
The cramped quarters of the visiting clubhouse at Rogers Centre served as the stage when the Yankees enjoyed the kind of celebration that they had dreamed about on the sun-drenched afternoons of Spring Training, filled with optimism about what "Baby Bombers" Greg Bird, Judge, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino might be able to accomplish over a full big league campaign.
Plenty, as it turned out. As they joyously exchanged "thumbs down" gestures and sprayed each other with bubbly, the Yankees were assured at least of playing in their first AL Wild Card Game since 2015. It was a night the youngest Yankees vowed never to forget, though some seemed to be holding something back for the next parties to come.
"It's great, but it's just the beginning for this team," Judge said. "We're not done yet."
1. Fight to the finish
Their backs pinned against the wall by the 102-win Indians in the AL Division Series, the Yankees came out swinging, winning three straight to upend the AL Central champions and advance to what would be an epic AL Championship Series against the Astros.
The ALDS clincher came on a clear, 62-degree evening in Cleveland, when Didi Gregorius hit a solo home run in the first inning and a two-run shot in the third off Indians ace Corey Kluber. The eventual AL Cy Young Award winner was dispatched to his second early exit of the series.
"It was good for us to get those two right there," Gregorius said. "It was really important for me and for the team. It was amazing to get everybody going. For me, it was probably the key hit right now in my career."
Carsten Sabathia rolled the clock back with nine strikeouts, Player Page for David Robertson earned the win with 2 2/3 scoreless innings and Chapman converted a six-out save as the Yankees became the 10th team to advance after losing the first two games of a best-of-five postseason series.
"It's what I dreamed about as a kid, getting a chance to play in the playoffs," Judge said, "and we're here."