Aaron Judge, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

A new decade is on deck, so let’s go back in time and look at ten great New York Yankees moments from the last decade.

Josh Benjamin

The New York Yankees are entering 2020 in a good place.

Gerrit Cole spurned the west coast in free agency and put on the pinstripes, fulfilling a childhood dream. New pitching coach Matt Blake and his modern approach have fans excited about the pitching staff.

Most important of all, a stacked lineup is ready to move forward after an injury-riddled 2019.

And yet, as the calendar shifts to a new decade, the 2010s will be an enigma in Yankee history. This is the first decade since the 1910s that the team never played in the World Series.

Still, despite the 28th World Series title which eluded them, the Yankees had a pretty successful decade. New York won the AL East four times and finished with three ALCS appearances. In 2017, the Yankees even came within a win of making the World Series.

The point is, the 2010s had some great moments in Yankee lore. Here are 10 of the best.

No. 10: Curtis Granderson’s three-homer night, April 12, 2012

Curtis Granderson is an underrated Yankee. He spent four years in pinstripes, made two All-Star teams, and slugged 115 of his 344 career home runs. Granderson also had back-to-back 40 home run seasons, including 2012.

The highlight of his season came on April 12, when the Minnesota Twins were visiting. New York fell behind 4-0 in the first inning, and Granderson immediately got a run back with a solo home run. It proved to only be the beginning. He hit two more home runs and picked up two more hits in going 5-for-5 with four RBIs.

Issues with strikeouts and batting average kept Granderson from being elite, but every fan should remember this game. Granderson’s flaws aside, he was always capable of changing a game with one swing.

No. 9: Masahiro Tanaka dominates Houston, Oct. 18, 2017

Let’s just call it like it is. Masahiro Tanaka is the new Andy Pettitte, especially when it comes to the playoffs. The veteran righty just has a knack for showing up in big games, and his 1.76 postseason ERA shows it.

This version of Tanaka was in full swing in Game 5 of the 2017 ALCS against the Houston Astros. With the series tied 2-2, Tanaka pitched seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts as the Yankees won 5-0 to take the series lead.

New York lost Games 6 and 7 in Houston, but the memory of Tanaka’s clutch outing remains.

No. 8: Aaron Judge’s 50th home run, Sept. 25, 2017

Aaron Judge’s rookie year was majestic. Save for a cold streak after the All-Star Break, the man gave opposing pitchers regular agita.

And despite that cold stretch, Judge was still in a position to make history towards the end of the season. He entered this game against the Kansas City Royals with 48 home runs, one shy of Mark McGwire’s rookie record. Judge tied the record with a two-run shot in the third inning, then broke it with a solo home run in the seventh.

The Yankees won 11-3 and Judge ultimately finished the year with 52 homers. The record was short-lived as New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso hit 53 last season. Just the same, Judge’s moment is not to be discounted.

No. 7: Didi Gregorius’ Wild Card homer, Oct. 3, 2017

Lots of fans are sad about Didi Gregorius recently signing with the Philadelphia Phillies, and rightfully so. He was a fun clubhouse presence, a slick fielder at shortstop, and his Twitter game speaks for itself.

But Gregorius also had a knack for the clutch, as evidenced in the 2017 AL Wild Card Game. The Yankees found themselves in an early 3-0 hole against the Minnesota Twins, but a rally brewed in the bottom of the first.

Enter Gregorius, who worked the count full before hitting a game-tying three-run blast off of Ervin Santana. Yankee Stadium exploded and New York went on to win 8-4.

It will indeed be difficult to watch the Yankees without Gregorius in 2020, but not to worry. His sense and spirit of positivity alone will remain in the clubhouse as New York looks to win its next championship.

No. 6: Aaron Judge opens court, Aug. 13, 2016

The 2016 season was a strange year for the Yankees. There was talent, but the competitive AL East meant a tough path to the playoffs. General manager Brian Cashman then decided to sell off some assets at the trade deadline and prepare for the team to get younger.

Aaron Judge was thus called up with Tyler Austin and Gary Sanchez and immediately made an impression. In his first career at-bat, Judge slugged the first of his 110 career home runs with a solo shot into Monument Park.

No one realized it yet, but the next face of the franchise was rounding the bases.

No. 5: Raul Ibañez’s playoff magic, Oct. 10, 2012

Dateline: Yankee Stadium, Game 3 of the ALDS. The Yankees were facing the Baltimore Orioles in a tense matchup, with Baltimore up 2-1 in the ninth inning with one out. Manager Joe Girardi then made the controversial decision to pinch-hit Raul Ibañez for Alex Rodriguez, who was 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts.

Granted, Ibañez had 19 homers in the regular season, but pinch-hitting anyone for Alex Rodriguez is unprecedented. Ibañez not only hit a solo shot to tie the game, but he hit another in the 12th inning to win the game. It’s safe to say the gamble paid off. The Yankees took a 2-1 series lead and later advanced to the ALCS.

This game may not seem like much, but it was an intense experience from a fan’s perspective. Ibañez entering colder than the Snow Miser and effortlessly playing the hero was the postseason story fans never knew they needed.

No. 4: Aaron Hicks’ epic catch, July 23, 2019

Speaking of intense games, let’s talk about this one. The ball was flying out of Target Field, pitchers were flabbergasted as to how to keep runs off the board, and Aaron Hicks capped it all with a catch for the ages.

Just imagine it. Five lead changes in just over five hours, AND extra innings. The Yankees took the lead off of Hicks’ two-run shot in the ninth inning, only to blow it in the bottom half before going back up for good in the tenth.

And even then, it wasn’t easy. The Minnesota Twins loaded the bases with two outs as Max Kepler came to the plate. Cue a line drive to the gap in left-center, and Hicks doing his best Falcon impression to make the catch. Sam Wilson would be proud.

Throw in this game being a playoff preview, and it means even more.

No. 3: The Captain says farewell, Sept. 25, 2014

Derek Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium is proof of history often writing itself. The longtime Yankee Captain came to bat in the ninth inning with Antoan Richardson representing the tying run on second base. New York had blown a ninth-inning lead already, so anticipation was already high.

Jeter, who already had an RBI double in the game, then laced Evan Meek’s pitch to right field as Richardson scored the winning run. The future Hall of Famer was mobbed before giving the crowd his final salute.

It truly was a great way to cap a great career, and every Yankee Captain from here on out has big shoes to fill. Jeter just represented so much to so many, and to see him go out strong made for a perfect sendoff.

No. 2: Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit, July 9, 2011

As Michael Kay said on the YES Network’s broadcast, it was history with an exclamation point. Derek Jeter notched his 3,000th career hit in style, but the leadup to it was intense.

First, Jeter had his first-ever free agency at age 36 the season before, and negotiations between him and the Yankees got tense. A deal was reached, but Jeter was clearly hurt by the process. It also didn’t help that he slumped to start the season and missed almost a month with a calf injury.

This moment made the rocky start worth it. In his second at-bat against David Price, Jeter launched a solo shot to left field for hit No. 3,000. It was his second of five hits on the day.

Jeter is still the only Yankees player to have 3,000 hits in a career. Even if another comes close, it will be hard to meet the magnitude of how the Captain achieved his.

No. 1: Exit Sandman, Sept. 26, 2013

Mariano Rivera isn’t just the best closer to ever play the game, but an absolute legend. The man had 44 saves in his final season, retired at 43 years old, and probably had a few good years left. His 652 career saves are the most by anyone in baseball history. He is the only former player to be unanimously inducted into the Hall of Fame.

And mind you, this wasn’t Rivera’s planned farewell. He wanted to retire after the 2012 season but tore his ACL in May of that year. Not wanting to go out with a limp, he came back for another year and looked great per usual.

It’s what made Rivera’s last game all the more bittersweet. Everyone knew this was the end, but felt like it didn’t have to be. Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte came to the mound to take the ball from him, and there wasn’t a dry eye in Yankee Stadium.

The Sandman finally made his exit, and there will truly never be another like him.

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