Un­der­dogs NY progress

Business World - - WORLD SPORTS - AN­THONY L. CUAYCONG AN­THONY L. CUAYCONG has been writ­ing Court­side since Busi­nessWorld in­tro­duced a Sports sec­tion in 1994. He is the Se­nior Vice-Pres­i­dent and Gen­eral Man­ager of Ba­sic En­ergy Corp.

De­pend­ing on per­spec­tive, fans will view the Yan­kees’ trip to the Amer­i­can League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries (ALCS) as yet an­other sign the apoca­lypse is near or as yet an­other ex­am­ple of the sheer un­pre­dictabil­ity of base­ball. Pegged for an early post­sea­son exit by all but their most ar­dent fol­low­ers fol­low­ing a mon­u­men­tal blun­der by man­ager Joe Gi­rardi in Game Two of the AL Di­vi­sion Se­ries (ALDS), they in­stead proved their met­tle by claim­ing both home out­ings and then stand­ing up to pres­sure on the road to clinch yes­ter­day’s win­ner-take-all af­fair.

The Yan­kees should have been goners. After all, they faced the vaunted In­di­ans, who en­tered the post­sea­son as the hottest team in Ma­jor League Base­ball (MLB), and who had three chances to forge what was ex­pected to be a clear path to the World Se­ries. And they weren’t play­ing well to boot. Yet, for some rea­son, they came to­gether; the fact that they were be­ing writ­ten off fresh from a de­bil­i­tat­ing loss gal­va­nized them. And, no doubt, they were buoyed by the sell­out crowds at The House That The Boss Built. Masahiro Tanaka, who had an up-and-down cam­paign, was un­hit­table in Game Three, en­abling a sin­gle home run by team­mate Greg Bird to be the de­ci­sive score. Luis Sev­erino, who lasted only one out in the wild- card con­test last week, pro­vided seven solid in­nings in Game Four. And, through it all, Gi­rardi found con­fi­dence. “We’ve got a shot now,” he said. “It’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent feel­ing than it was the other day, and these guys have picked me up.”

Did they ever. When Game Five rolled around, the Yan­kees didn’t stroll into Pro­gres­sive Field as if they had noth­ing to lose. Rather, they had heads held high and ab­so­lutely be­lieved they de­served to win. And they hit the ground run­ning, giv­ing CC Sa­bathia some breath­ing room with first- and third-in­ning bombs cour­tesy of Didi Gre­go­rius off In­di­ans ace Corey Klu­ber. And the pitcher with the most wins in the park took ad­van­tage, com­ing up with a sea­son-high nine strike­outs in four and a third in­nings. Mean­while, the In­di­ans be­came un­sure of them­selves. They car­ried a 102-60 slate that fea­tured an un­prece­dented 22 straight vic­to­ries, and yet looked over­matched in the crunch. They en­tered the post­sea­son tops in field­ing, but some­how com­mit­ted dispir­it­ing lapses with out­comes on the line; yes­ter­day, they had two ninth-in­ning er­rors that all but sank their cause.

Mov­ing for­ward, the Yan­kees con­tinue to have their work cut out for them. They face the fa­vored Astros, against whom they lost five of seven reg­u­lar-sea­son meet­ings, in the ALCS, and they hope Aaron Judge, their sin­gle big­gest of­fen­sive force, will have al­ready re­cov­ered from his slump. In the ALDS, he stank at the plate so much so that he be­came the first player in MLB his­tory to have three four-strike­out games in any given se­ries. If noth­ing else, though, they’ll be ready. Notwith­stand­ing their sta­tus as un­der­dogs, their progress so far gives them un­shak­able self-as­sur­ance; not for noth­ing have all their tri­umphs come in elim­i­na­tion set-tos. No won­der Gi­rardi was ec­static yes­ter­day. His job was prob­a­bly saved;

his job looks like a good one to have again.

The Yan­kees con­tinue to have their work cut out for them. They face the fa­vored Astros, against whom they lost five of seven reg­u­lar-sea­son meet­ings, in the ALCS, and they hope Aaron Judge, their sin­gle big­gest of­fen­sive force, will have al­ready re­cov­ered from his slump. If noth­ing else, though, they’ll be ready. Notwith­stand­ing their sta­tus as un­der­dogs, their progress so far gives them un­shak­able self­as­sur­ance; not for noth­ing have all their tri­umphs come in elim­i­na­tion set-tos.

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