Joe Girardi, the Yankees manager, said that the team would pursue the division title, and that the secondary goal would be retaining home-field advantage for the wild-card game.
Credit Fred Thornhill/Canadian Press, via Associated Press
“I think it’s important that we keep our foot on the gas and see where we lie,” Girardi said. “You don’t want guys to lose that edge that they’ve had for so long.”
The Yankees were committed to a balancing act this season of rebuilding the team while also trying to win now, and they made it work. Last year they traded away veteran stars like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman to stock the minor league system with prized prospects, hoping to build toward a prosperous future with a core of talented young players already in place, including Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino.
But General Manager Brian Cashman also made moves to fortify the team for this year’s push. That included bringing back Chapman as a free agent, signing Matt Holliday and later trading for players like Sonny Gray, Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson without surrendering the club’s best young players.
Saturday’s victory represented the fruit of those decisions. Gray allowed one run and four hits in six innings, and Bird hit a three-run home run, his third homer in the last seven games. Chad Green, Robertson and Chapman combined for three hitless innings in relief, and Frazier cemented the win with a solo home run in the eighth.
“All we needed was an invitation,” Frazier said, referring to the postseason party. “We got that invitation today.”
Girardi credited the postseason berth to virtually everyone in the organization, from the owners and Cashman down to the trainers. When spring training began in February, the Yankees were not considered a top contender.
Credit Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
“Going into spring training, I wasn’t sure,” Girardi said. “But coming out of spring training, I felt really good about our team.”
Pitcher C. C. Sabathia, another long-serving Yankee, was also optimistic about the team’s chances, based on the raw talent he saw from the beginning and on the moves Cashman made to reinforce the roster.
“Obviously, the front office knew what they were doing,” Sabathia said.
The last time the Yankees were in the postseason was 2015, but Sabathia did not attend the wild-card loss to the Houston Astros because he had admitted himself to a rehabilitation center to deal with alcoholism.
On Saturday he stood mostly to the side of the clubhouse and watched the revelry with a huge smile on his face.
“It feels good,” he said, “just to be able to get back in the playoffs, obviously, and be able to help the team. It feels good.”
The party raged on as players and coaches soaked in the moment.
“We’re getting after it a little bit right now,” Frazier said. “Well deserved. We’ll be back to business again tomorrow. We’ve still got a division to try and win, too. This is a good team, and we all know what to do.”
Luis Severino was struck in the upper back with a baseball during batting practice, but he said he was O.K. … An intruder got past stadium security on Friday and into the Yankees’ clubhouse, but he was caught and arrested after trying to steal a helmet and some baseballs.
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