Right in the thick of an incredible ALDS performance, let’s reminisce on the New York Yankees and their history in the two-decade-plus series.
Don’t call it a comeback just yet. Let’s wait until Wednesday night before we jump the gun there.
However, you can admit that this series has been frustrating, controversial, exciting and, best of all, inspiring. Man, these Yankees never give up.
Which reminds us of some Yankees’ teams in the past, specifically in this type of series. Since the best-of-five series was implemented in 1981, the Yankees have been in quite a few of them. And each one has been memorable in its own way.
We might be witnessing more history now but it’s never a bad time to look at those incredible successes that have come in the past. Maybe that will give them more motivation for Game 5 tomorrow night in Cleveland.
So, here we go. Sit back, relax and enjoy some stellar ALDS performances.
5. 2009: Game 2 vs. Minnesota
The Yankees have played Minnesota four times during the 18 ALDS series they’ve been a part of. The majority of those came in the late 2000s. And each and every time, they dominated them.
Even though the Yankees won handily, there was a certain moment that kicked off that rally that propelled them to their 27th World Series title. That moment came off the bat of Mark Teixiera.
In his first season with the Yankees, he made himself a playoff force to be feared. That, of course, came after Alex Rodriguez heroically tied the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, forcing extras. That set up the moment for Teix to blast his first postseason home run of his career.
The Stadium was rocking as the Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the series. He sent his first Teix Message deep into the night, sending the Yankees well on their way to the World Series.
4. 1995: Game 2 vs. Seattle
Tie game. Extra innings. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
This time, it happened in 1995 when the Yankees were beginning their rebuild of arguably the greatest franchise in sports. The hero this time? Jim Leyritz.
After nine, the score was knotted at 4 each. Seattle and New York traded runs in the 12th to force the game to stretch into the 15th inning. And that’s when the heroics happened.
The rain was pounding down in the wee hours of a Thursday morning when Leyritz decided it was time to go home. He blasted a two-run home run just over the wall in right field to secure the victory and the 2-0 lead in the series.
And, of course, who could forget Don Mattingly‘s first and only postseason home run, a moment that literally almost brough the old house down:
It’s still one of the greatest Yankee Stadium moments in history.
3. 1997: Game 1 vs. Cleveland
So many home runs. This time, they came all in a row for the Yankees in their own stadium.
The Indians scored five runs off of David Cone in the first inning and the Yankees scratched and clawed their way back, exploding for five runs in the sixth to ultimately go ahead. Three of those five runs came off of three straight shots off the bats of Tim Raines, Derek Jeter and Paul O’Neill.
Rarely do you see back-to-back-to-back home runs but in the playoffs? That is absolutely unheard of. These homers gave them the lead in a game they would eventually win 8-6 to give them a 1-0 lead over Cleveland.
There are the names of legends we know and love. Some of you may not have even been alive yet but if you were, you’ll remember this for the rest of your life. And let’s not forget the beauty of that pitcher’s glasses.
2. 2012: Game 3 vs. Baltimore
Remember the magical years of Raul Ibanez? This was arguably one of his finest games in pinstripes.
A relatively low-scoring game in terms of the Yankees, the Orioles jumped ahead 2-1 heading into the ninth inning behind rookies (!) Ryan Flaherty and Manny Machado (future Yankee?). Their homers in the 3rd and 5th innings came off starter Hiroki Kuroda.
Down one, the Yankees sent the legend Raul Ibanez to pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez, who couldn’t seem to find his groove during the postseason. Luckily, Ibanez came through in a pinch, blasting a game-tying shot to keep the Yankees in the game.
But that wasn’t all for Ibanez. He also took the first pitch of the 12th inning and knocked it into orbit for his second home run of the game and an improbable walk-off. Ibanez, that ball was gone-ez.
I’m no John Sterling but I’m pretty sure his call had to be epic for this performance.
1. 2001: Game 3 at Oakland
If we’re being honest, the 2001 ALDS deserves its own post, as it was probably the greatest postseason series you’ll ever see from the Yankees. But one specific moment from this series stands out above the rest.
Derek Jeter and his flip play were incredible. But if you throw in all that was going on (being down 2-0, having to win on the road, playing for a city reeling from 9/11), the play became that much more incredible.
We all know the story but I’ll recap it for you anyway. Clinging to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh, a two-out hit down the line threatened to score Jeremy Giambi and tie the game. That’s when Jeter ranged down the line, cut off Shane Spencer’s off-line throw and flipped to Jorge Posada, who swiped a clean tag just in the nick of time.
It was a momentum-changing moment. It was exciting and incredible. So many emotions made this play what it was: a gift for the Yankees.
With that play, you knew that they would win the game. You knew they would win the series. And you knew you’d be seeing that exact play on your television screens for a long time after.
So now we get to witness Game 5 after the Yankees went down 2-0 on the road. It’s back to Cleveland for a tough battle to get to the ALCS. Maybe I’ll have another magic moment to add to the list come tomorrow evening.