The Yankees should be up 2-1 heading into Game 4, but instead they’re fighting for their playoff lives.
The Yankees needed every bit of the seven innings Masahiro Tanaka gave them in Game 3 and the one big hit they never got in Game 2. Greg Bird delivered that hit when he ambushed an Andrew Miller fastball and deposited it into the second deck in right field.
That one run was enough for the Yankees to shut out the Indians in Game 3 and force a Game 4. The Yankees should be up 2-1 in the series if not for a colossal meltdown by both the bullpen and manager Joe Girardi in Game 2.
Nevertheless, this is where they are, and every game is a do-or-die game for the Yankees, but there’s reason for optimism in the Bronx. There is a way — and five reasons — the Yankees can do what only nine teams have done in a best of five series in playoff history.
1. The Yankees have nothing to lose
As cliche as this sounds the Yankees really have nothing to lose. They weren’t even supposed to be in the playoffs this season because it was a “rebuilding year.” Aaron Judge wasn’t supposed to hit 52 home runs in the regular season; he wasn’t even supposed to be the everyday right fielder.
Didi Gregorius wasn’t supposed to break the franchise record for most home runs by a Yankee shortstop in a single season. He did that, even after he missed the first month of the season.
First baseman Greg Bird had his commitment to the team questioned by an executive after he had to have ankle surgery. Bird only had 147 at-bats during the regular season, but don’t let the .190 batting average fool you. He made the final two months of the season count and now he’s hitting .308 with a 1.240 OPS. His OPS is ninth among those remaining in the playoffs.
There were a number of things that weren’t supposed to happen, but did, for the Yankees, and now they’re just playing baseball.
Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia and David Robertson are the only guys remaining from the 2009 World Series team. Jacoby Ellsbury has two rings from his time in Boston, but other than that the postseason is pretty brand new to the roster. Bird has played one playoff game back in the 2014 Wild Card game and he was 1-for-3.
These young guys shouldn’t fear a loss, because with the roster they have now, and multiple young guys like Chance Adams, Gleyber Torres and Estevan Florial in the wings, they know they’re going to be around for a long time.