The Yankees had a magical ride, going 7-6 during their improbable postseason run. It began with a come-from-behind victory over the Twins in the Wild Card Game, continued with a dramatic comeback from an 0-2 deficit to defeat the Indians in the Division Series, and culminated with their Game Seven loss to the Astros in the League Championship Series.
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but the Bronx Bombers took it so much further. Let's appreciate some of the key contributors during the playoffs:
The bullpen was as advertised
The vaunted relief corps stepped up time and time again, beginning with the Wild Card Game. Following Luis Severino's abbreviated start, one where he allowed three runs and only recorded one out, the bullpen took over and hurled 8.2 innings of one-run ball. They gave the Yankees a chance to get back in the game, and then nailed down the victory.
Chad Green came in to relieve Severino with two on and one out in the first inning. He struck out both batters he faced to get out of the jam. Then he carried the Yankees into the third inning with the lead.
David Robertson took over from Green with the bases loaded and only one out. He was superb. Although he allowed one of the inherited runners to score on a groundout, he stopped the bleeding there by notching a big strikeout to end the inning. He pitched the Yankees into the sixth and earned the win.
Tommy Kahnle took over from Robertson, recording seven outs without allowing a single baserunner. Chapman struck out the side in the ninth to send the Yankees to the ALDS. If this quartet of relievers had failed to perform so exceptionally well during the Wild Card Game, then the Yankees’ postseason might have ended without a single win. Thanks to them, the Bombers survived to play another game.
Masahiro Tanaka comes up aces
After opening the ALDS with a pair of less-than-stellar games by New York's pitching staff, Tanaka completely changed the dynamic. With the Yankees facing elimination in Game Three, the right-hander threw seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball to earn the win, keeping the team alive in the process. Tanaka wasn't done, though. He hurled another shutout in Game Five of the ALCS, which put the Yankees within one win of the World Series.
Of the nine pitchers who made at least three starts during this year's postseason to date, Tanaka has the numbers. He gave up two earned runs on ten hits in 20 innings. That's good for a microscopic 0.90 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, and .369 OPS against. His stats weren't just the best among the Yankees, they were the best overall.
Tanaka's other postseason start was the ALCS opener against Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros. If the Yankees had just gotten a few lucky bounces in that game, they might have won that series and Tanaka could very well have been named MVP.
Bird is the word
Greg Bird led the team with a .938 OPS in the playoffs. He hit three homers and drove in six runs. He turned in a great overall performance by any measure, but it was the timing of his hits that really makes him stand out. Bird had the game winning RBI in three of the Yankees seven postseason wins.
Take the Wild Card Game for example. His single to score Gary Sanchez in the third inning gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead. The Twins were shut down from there and New York won that game 8-4.
His solo home run off Andrew Miller in Game Three of the ALDS was easily one of the biggest hits of the entire postseason. It was the only run of the game, with the Yankees literally nine outs and one run away from elimination. It was the turning point of the series, which the Bombers came back to win.
Bird came up clutch again in Game Five of the ALCS. With the series tied at two games apiece, and Tanaka once again engaged in a potential pitching duel, Bird's RBI single in the second to break through against Dallas Keuchel gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead. It turned out to be the game winner, as Tanaka and the bullpen shut out Houston.
Didi Gregorius does it all
Sir Didi hit three homers, drove in seven, and had an .845 OPS in the postseason. His three-run bomb in the bottom of the first in the Wild Card Game tied the score and got the Yankees right back into the game. His two home runs in ALDS Game Five helped the Yankees complete their incredible comeback and propel them to their showdown with Houston.
All rise for the Judge
We saw many players contribute standout performances during the Yankees' 13-game postseason run, but only one rises above all the others. That would be right fielder Aaron Judge.
The rookie sensation led the Yankees with four homers and eleven runs batted in during the playoffs. Throughout MLB, only Jose Altuve of the Astros hit more dingers (5), and only Justin Turner of the Dodgers drove in more runs (12). Judge also scored nine runs, which is second only to Altuve's ten.
Judge was clutch, driving in runs in five of the Yankees' seven wins. His two-run shot in the fourth inning of the Wild Card Game gave the Yankees a 7-4 lead. This big knock gave the bullpen some much needed breathing room.
His two-run double off Trevor Bauer in the second inning of ALDS Game Four gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead. It proved to be the game winner, as New York went on to a 7-3 victory.
He had key hits in each of New York's three ALCS wins as well. His three-run bomb in Game Three gave the Yankees a commanding 8-0 lead. His dramatic two-run double to tie the score in the seventh inning of Game Four was one of the most important hits of the year. Finally, Judge's double in Game Five gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead and provided Tanaka with an insurance run.
Besides being the Bomber's primary run producer, Judge impressed with his defense as well. His running, leaping catch to rob Yuli Gurriel of a home run to lead off the second in Game Seven was one of the best plays you'll ever see. Had the Yankees won that game, it's a play that everyone would be talking about and would likely be regarded as the series saver.
In a year which was predicted by many to be a last-place finish, the Bombers made it all the way to Game Seven of the ALCS. They gave us countless thrills along the way. Who do you think is the Yankees playoffs MVP for 2017? Let us know in the comments section below.