Comeback-Kid Yankees Are Scary with Awakening of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistOctober 17, 2017

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 17: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees reacts after scoring in the eighth inning against the Houston Astros during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 17, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

This wasn't supposed to be the New York Yankees' year. Just don't tell the Yankees.

After dropping the first two games of the American League Championship Series to the 101-win Houston Astros, the Yanks won Game 3 8-1 on Monday.

Then on Tuesday, New York engineered an inspiring comeback in the Bronx to even the series. Even more frighteningly for Houston, burgeoning bashers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez awoke to enable the 6-4 win.

These pinstripes-clad whippersnappers are two victories away from a trip to the World Series—and it genuinely feels like they could get there.

On Tuesday, the Astros built a 4-0 lead and held that advantage heading into the bottom of the seventh.

That's when Judge launched one of his signature, stratosphere-tickling home runs to center field. Let's take a gander, courtesy of YES Network, because it was an "all rise" turning point:

Later in the inning, Sanchez made it 4-2 with a sacrifice fly. In the eighth, Judge doubled to tie the game, narrowly missing a second home run, and Sanchez capped the comeback with a two-run double of his own.

Let's look at both of those hits, backed by the stylings of Celine Dion if you want to turn up the volume, via Titanic Baseball:

An impeccable, two-strikeout ninth by closer Aroldis Chapman sealed the deal. The Yankees—a wild-card entrant allegedly in the midst of a rebuild—are now 5-0 at home in the 2017 playoffs.

They overcame a 0-2 deficit to defeat the favored Cleveland Indians in their American League Division Series. Now, they're trying to do the same to the Astros.


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 The dynamic duo of Judge and Sanchez could be the key.

Neither has consistently raked in the postseason. Entering Tuesday, Judge was 5-for-34 with 21 strikeouts. Sanchez was 6-for-38 with 15 strikeouts.

Both crushed it during the regular season, however. Judge locked down American League Rookie of the Year honors and put himself in the MVP conversation with a 1.049 OPS and 52 home runs. Sanchez followed his 2016 rookie breakout with an .876 OPS and 33 home runs.

Judge stands next to the Miami Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton as the game's co-most fearsome slugger. Sanchez might have passed the San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey for the title of best offensive catcher in baseball. They're good, to state the painfully obvious.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

And yet, the October lights can blind even the best youngsters. No one would have been shocked to see Judge and Sanchez stumble in their first autumn foray. Chalk it up to a learning experience.

On the other hand, I harken back to a conversation I had with Sanchez in November 2016. The Baby Bombers were fresh off a winning season that stopped short of a postseason berth. I asked Sanchez if he felt pressure to carry the franchise after his eye-opening debut.

He deferred, giving credit to the other 24 guys on the roster. He sounded unfailingly confident, even through an interpreter.

Then he said something prescient: "I can tell you that we are going to work hard to bring a championship to New York."

Maybe at the time he meant the diaper-clad Yankees would bring a championship in 2018 or 2019. Now, the 2017 Commissioner's Trophy is within reach.

Two more wins against the potent Astros won't be easy. If they manage that, they'll need to deal with either the big-spending Los Angeles Dodgers or defending champion Chicago Cubs.

Leave those worries for another day. The Yanks are riding high and making history, per ESPN Stats & Info:

"We've been in that situation a lot this year," Judge said after Game 4, per MLB.com's Bryan Hoch and Brian McTaggart. "We get down, but we keep fighting, keep putting out quality at-bats. We're never out of a game with the kind of offense we have.

"I have a lot of faith in this team."

This wasn't supposed to be their year. Just don't tell them that.

   

All statistics current as of Tuesday and courtesy of MLB.com.

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