The playoffs are all about moments. Yogi Berra jumping into Don Larsen’s arms, Kirk Gibson rounding the bases, Joe Carter jumping up and down euphorically because he just won the World Series on a walk-off homer, Jose Bautista’s bat flip. You see them replayed on scoreboards and on your TVs. Perhaps you attended a playoff game and have your own personal moment that like to think about from time to time.
These moments don’t always have to be positive. What may be a great moment for one team or one fan base may be an awful moment for another. The following moments, which took place Wednesday night during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Indians, are happy, satisfying moments for fans of the team from New York. Cleveland fans can avert their eyes or just click away altogether.
First inning, two outs, Didi Gregorius is up.
After Brett Gardner bunted on the first pitch for the first out of the game, and Aaron Judge struck out on six pitches, Didi Gregorius swung at the fourth pitch he saw from Corey Kluber and deposited into the right-field seats.
It was Didi’s second home run of the playoffs and it momentarily silenced the rowdy Progressive Field crowd. It gave the Yankees the lead and it set the tone for the rest of the game.
Third inning, one out, runner on first, Didi Gregorius is up.
After Gardner singled and Judge struck out for a second time, Gregorius took an 0-1 offering from Kluber and once again, hit it into the right-field stands.
And just like in the first inning, the Progressive Field crowd was stunned into silence as the Yankees went up 3-0. Or as Matt Vasgersian joked on the broadcast, “Didi 3, Indians 0.”
Fifth inning, one out, runners on first and second, Francisco Lindor is up
After cruising for the first four innings, CC Sabathia ran into some trouble in the fifth, giving up four straight singles, and the Indians had pulled to within one run. Joe Girardi called upon David Robertson to stop the bleeding and he induced a well-timed, much-needed, inning-ending double play.
CC was pumped, the Yankees escaped danger and that was as close as the Indians would get.
Ninth inning, runners on first and second, Brett Gardner is up
Cody Allen was in for the Indians—he had come in to pitch during the top of the eighth—and Starlin Castro struck out to start the inning. Aaron Hicks hit a single but the ball was misplayed by Austin Jackson in left field and Hicks advanced to second. Allen got Chase Headley to pop out for out No. 2 and it looked like maybe it would be a nerve-wracking bottom of the ninth—but Todd Frazier came to the plate and he worked a hard fought, nine-pitch walk against Allen to put two one with two out for Gardner.
Gardner, who only saw one pitch in his first at bat of the game, saw 12 pitches in his final at-bat:
• RBI single
One thing about do-or-die playoff games is that there always seems to be one key at-bat that changes the complexion of the game. Gardner’s at-bat was the one to do it. It turned a sweaty 3-2 game into a much more relaxing 5-2 game so when Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman came in to pitch the ninth, there was a little more room for error. But it wouldn’t matter. Chapman closed out the game, the Yankees won the game and the series stunning both the Indians and their fans. They also stunned some baseball pundits who were convinced after the debacles from Game 2 that the Yankees didn’t have a shot of winning the series.
But the Yankees—who weren’t even supposed to be here, the Yankees who were a year or two away from making the playoffs, the Yankees who had too many young players—beat the odds. The Yankees who were down 0-2 in the series won three straight elimination games and are now heading to the American League Championship Series against the Astros, where they hope to beat the odds again and to create even more moments for their fans to celebrate.