Just by reaching the playoffs, the Yankees surpassed most expectations for this season.
“I’m not surprised,” Manager Joe Girardi said before the game, “because I thought there is a lot of talent here.”
Going into the season, the Yankees were committed to a balancing act of rebuilding the team while also trying to win now. The year before, they traded away veteran stars like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman to stock the minor league system with prized prospects. But General Manager Brian Cashman also made moves designed to fortify the team for this year. That included bringing back Chapman as a free agent, signing Matt Holliday and later trading for players like Gray, Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson.
The young players who embody the Yankees’ future, including Bird, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Severino, have all performed exceptionally well when healthy.
“I saw the potential and I thought they had a lot of ability to do some special things, surrounded by some good veterans who know what it takes and could help them out,” Girardi said. “And that’s exactly what happened.”
Gray (10-11) kept the Blue Jays off balance on Saturday and stretched his streak of not allowing more than two earned runs on the road to nine games. He gave up a bases-empty home run to Teoscar Hernandez in the third inning and only three other hits in his six innings of work.
Chase Headley and Starlin Castro walked in the fifth inning, and then Bird drilled the first pitch he saw from Blue Jays starter Joe Biagini into the first deck in right field for his sixth home run and his third in the last seven games.
Three innings later, Frazier, the victim of the hidden-ball trick the night before, hit a homer to center to extend the Yankees’ lead to 4-1.
The mood in the Yankees clubhouse was decidedly different from what it had been the night before, after an 8-1 loss. Somehow, a male fan had managed to get inside as well. But he was ultimately spotted by the Yankees’ security team and nabbed with a batting helmet, a handful of balls and a towel.
“It happens,” Girardi said. “It shouldn’t happen, but it’s happened before. You get a little bit concerned. I think our people handled it well.”
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