Kevin A. Lewis' 5 Favorite Moments From The Yankees 2017
Cover photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
As we bask in the beginning of a new year and my insatiable desire for the baseball season to start grows daily, I’d like to take a look at my five favorite Yankee moments of the very successful 2017 Yankee campaign.
1. Didi Gregorius’ HR against the Twins in the Wild card game:
I was never really concerned about the potential of losing to the Twins because the next meaningful game I see the Yankees lose to the Twins will be the first. With said reasonable arrogance out of the way, that game could not have started off any worse. Luis Severino got tagged for three runs and couldn’t get out of the first inning as he recorded one out. The crowd was restless and stunned as the hometown Yankees stepped up to the plate. Brett Gardner reached first with a walk then Aaron Judge reached on a little bleeder single. This set the stage for Gregorius as he stepped up with runners on first and third with one out. I was content with a fly ball but I really thought he was going to hit the ball out of the park. Ervin Santana is a solid pitcher but he has a 5.50 ERA in his career in Yankee Stadium and as previously alluded to, Yankee Stadium is a house of horrors for the Twins. Gregorius worked the count to 3-2, got a knee high fastball and absolutely pulverized it into the right field stands and the Stadium went absolutely nuts. Given how the top of that first inning went, that was the most important Yankee hit of the season.
2. Greg Bird HR against Cleveland in game 3 of the ALDS
Who said he couldn’t hit lefties? I really like Greg Bird. I think he has a swing tailor made for the Stadium, he has a perfect baseball name and I root for feel good stories. Bird’s injury history has made him a guy that is easy to cheer. This past season, Bird started off a miserable 6-60 and went on the DL with an ankle issue. When he had an ankle procedure done in July it looked like his season was lost. There were unfounded and completely unfair “Wow, this guy really doesn’t want to play” smear pieces written with quotes from anonymous people involved with the Yankees.
Bird came back in September and had a productive month for the team in a tune up for the postseason. In game 3 of the ALDS, the Yankees were in desperate of a pick me up. They had just come off the bad loss at Progressive Field amidst the controversial decision by Joe Girardi not to challenge a blatantly obvious call which led to four runs and in this seventh inning the game was scoreless. Then Bird came up to the plate against arguably the best reliever in baseball in Andrew Miller. He saw a 1-1 fastball about belt high, took the hardest swing I’ve ever seen him take and launched a home run into the right field stands. The home run itself was huge but it’s more meaningful, to me anyway, given what he went through as far as his health was concerned throughout that season. Throughout that rehab process, I’m sure he was just praying and hoping that he could come back and have a moment like this. You could kind of tell by how absolutely crazy he went after he crossed home plate. Todd Frazier said he hit him in the forearm so hard that he needed to take the first pitch of the AB to allow time to regain feeling. I’m happy Bird got to experience that and I hope his health permits many more of those kind of moments in the near and distant future alike.
3. Gary Sanchez’s 2 run double against the Astros in game 4 of the ALCS
This game remains a blur to me. I remember the Yankees flailing away unsuccessfully at Lance McCullers stuff for 6+ innings and I remember Yuli Gurriel’s bases clearing double in the sixth feeling like it might be insurmountable. In the seventh inning, Aaron Judge hit a ball to Yellowstone off Lance McCullers to cut the lead to 4-1. In a long, stressful eighth inning, the Yankees eventually chipped away. We had a Didi triple, Chase Headley nearly falling into an out in the most literal of senses, an Aaron Judge double, a Jacoby Ellsbury sighting and other things.
Sanchez came to bat with the score tied at 4, runners on first and third and one out. Sanchez promptly lined one to the right center field gap and cleared the bases. The moment was huge in and of itself but what made it really special was just how crazy the Yankee Stadium crowd went. Since the new Stadium opened, I think that is the craziest I’ve seen the crowd. Also, Sanchez is my favorite player in baseball and that helps
4. Didi Gregorius homers twice off Corey Kluber in game 5 of the ALDS
I was at game 4 of this series and my section was chanting “We want Kluber” once the last out was recorded. Gregorius apparently agreed because he jumped the yard on Kluber twice. When it comes to seizing that particular moment on that evening, Gregorius looked a lot like a previous Yankee shortstop. One of my favorite things about road playoff games is the early crowd silencers. With a team with the history the Indians do, going out there and setting the tone leads to my favorite sound in sports. A silent home crowd at the hands of my favorite team. Gregorius smoked a solo HR in the first and then a two run homer in the third and that was all the Yankees needed as they completed the come back from down 0-2 despite playing against Cleveland and Joe Girardi. Impressive feat.
5. Clint Frazier three-run walk off homerun in the bottom of the 9th against MIL
I feel weird entering this one because it feels inevitable that Frazier will be traded. I’m past the point of getting too attached to young players (Joba Chamberlain taught me a valuable lesson here) because sometimes potential is just that, potential. With that said, I really like Clint Frazier and I wish him success wherever he goes whether that is here or elsewhere.
Frazier hadn’t been in the big leagues for too long and he was tasked with the difficult task of getting a hit off Corey Knebel. Frazier had a crucial RBI triple two innings previous to this and was looking to build on a pretty good start to his ML career. I liked the matchup since Frazier’s calling card is his “legendary bat speed” and Knebel throws high 90s gas. Frazier saw a letter high 1-0 fastball and knocked one into the left field seats giving the Yankees a 5-3 win. Damn, I miss him already.