With the New York Yankees facing off against the Minnesota Twins in the AL Wild Card one-game playoff, emotion from everyone in Yankee Stadium won out.
When the New York Yankees made their transition from the House That Ruth Built to the House That Jeter Built (more like Steinbrenner, but that’s beside the point), there hasn’t been much of a rich history to cross streets of the Bronx.
Sure, the 2009 World Series was captured in the first year of Yankee Stadium III but since the organization won their 27th championship. But ever since, causes for celebration — one that gets the stadium shaking — have been few and far between.
The final home games of Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez all featured electric fans in nearly every seat. When Raul Ibanez hit a home run to tie Game 3 of the 2012 ALDS in the ninth and won the game with another long ball in the 12th, the roof would’ve been blown off if there was one.
Even the 2015 AL Wild Card game featured an atmosphere that’s rarely seen in the corporate-friendly ballpark.
But Tuesday night’s one-game playoff, which featured the Yankees facing off against the Minnesota Twins, was unrivaled.
The first string of emotion came from the sold-out crowd. Unlike numerous games throughout the regular season where suits and ties are as visible as Yankee jerseys, the die-hards filled the stands. From singing along to the National Anthem, to the roll call expanding past the right-field bleachers, to everyone standing and cheering before first pitch, it was the truest form of home-field advantage.
The game’s outcome, however, looked bleak from the onset.
Luis Severino — arguably the brightest young talent the Yankees have to offer and their de facto ace — looked like the pitcher of 2016, not 2017. He was pulled after allowing three runs on four hits and one walk, all the while recording just one out.
But instead of being deflated like when Dallas Keuchel flexed his pitching muscles in the aforementioned 2015 contest, the fans remained loud. They remained boisterous. They rose to their collective feet when unheralded reliever Chad Green came in and put out the fire that was the top of the first inning.
That feeling of excitement carried into the bottom of the inning. After Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge reached base, the momentum in the Stadium — despite the deficit — began to shift. When Didi Gregorius belted a three-run home run into the right-field stands, the emotion transferred from fans to the players.
The shortstop was visibly yelling with adulation when rounding the bases. Both Gardner and Judge were just as happy.
And it didn’t stop there.
In the following inning, Gardner — the elder statesman on a team full of youth — untied the game with a home run that reached the second deck in right field. His staredown was Barry Bonds-esque, and it had fans both in the stands and on Twitter buzzing because of it.
It was uncharacteristic, to be sure. But for this era of Yankees, positive playoff moments are foreign.
The emotion from the Yankees went from position players to pitchers. As both David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle got pivotal outs during innings in which they weren’t used to pitching, they exited the mound looking less like Rivera and more like Joba Chamberlain.
And it was all capped off when Aaron Judge hit a home run that extended the Yankees lead from one run to three. The youngster — who is slowly emerging as one of baseball’s biggest (literally and figuratively) and brightest talents — did what he has done little of in his big league career — let out an exuberant “Woooo,” one that even Ric Flair could respect.
With the game in its final stages, there wasn’t a Yankee fan sitting as Aroldis Chapman recorded the final three outs. Their collective roar overpowered Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York.
At the same time, the players themselves were letting their excitement out in the open as they won their way into a matchup with the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS.
Over the last year, many have said the organization was heading towards their next dynasty. Their unique mix of impressive young talent and veteran leadership was reminiscent of the late 90s dynasty in which the Yankees captured four World Series in five seasons.
But the one thing, that one missing piece was the emotion; from the players, to the front office, to the fans.
The Yankees may not win a championship this season. In fact, it’ll be quite the uphill battle.
But the on-field product is ready to return to its winning ways. On October 4, the fans proved they’re following suit.
Dan Federico is a co-founder and lead writer for Bronx to Bushville.