It was Girardi’s bungled decision to not ask for a replay that helped set the stage for the Indians’ 9-8, 13-inning victory in Game 2, which put the Yankees on the brink of elimination. Judge also swung and missed — repeatedly. He struck out 16 times in 20 at-bats in the series and had just one hit.
Each was grateful to have another series to play — and a reason not to look back.
“Every day is a new day,” Judge said in the center of the clubhouse, goggles on his head and a bottle of Champagne in his hand. “That’s the beauty of baseball.”
That Yogi Berra-like sentiment is no doubt shared by Girardi, who was excoriated in the news media after the Yankees’ Game 2 loss and then booed lustily when he was introduced at Yankee Stadium before Game 3. The anger also gave voice to the possibility that Girardi, who has been managing in the Bronx for nearly a decade and whose contract expires at the end of the season, might not be assured of coming back.
Though Girardi said that Steinbrenner had been his usual self in the days since the Game 2 fiasco — “he’s very even-keeled,” Girardi said — the experience of making a significant miscalculation, and then having to swallow his pride and admit it, had clearly humbled him.
“I’ve been carrying this burden for five or six days,” Girardi said before retreating to his clubhouse office at Progressive Field to celebrate with his wife and three children. “It’s hard. If we lose on Sunday, it really hurt. If we lose on Monday, it really, really hurt. If we would have lost today, it probably would have hurt even worse. So for me, what those guys did for me, I’ll never forget.”
Girardi’s typically unforgiving demeanor with reporters dissolved in his news conference between Games 2 and 3, when he delivered his uncharacteristic mea culpa. “I screwed up,” he said repeatedly.
General Manager Brian Cashman said that Girardi grabbed him and said he was sorry when he walked into the clubhouse after Game 2. Girardi also apologized to his team in a brief meeting before Game 3.
At that meeting, Frazier stood up and told Girardi not to worry, that the team supported him.
“This one’s for Joe,” Frazier said after the series-clinching win. “A lot of criticism went his way and it shouldn’t have. I told him we’ve got your back 100 percent — don’t worry about anything else. I know it took a toll on him. I saw what happened in the media.”
In some quarters of the organization it was clear how much the Game 2 mistake had shaken Girardi.
“Obviously, you always want the games won, not lost — a series won, not lost,” Cashman said. “You’d rather it be the story lines that are forced to be written are about the success, not somebody else’s failure. Thankfully, this entire franchise was able to rise up and push through and beat an amazing Cleveland team and change that story line.”
Cashman then relayed an adage that Reggie Jackson, the former October hero and an adviser to Steinbrenner, likes to parrot: If you have a bat in your hand, you have a chance to change the story line.
Jackson, standing at the other end of a clubhouse hallway as the late-night celebration wound down, said the message also applied to Judge, who shattered the record for strikeouts in a playoff series.
One swing can change the narrative.
“He’s got a fabulous attitude about his apprenticeship, his education as a great player,” Jackson said of Judge. “This is how you learn to do it. He’s got to stop striking out. We can talk to him, we can tell him, but he’s got to do it. I’ll do anything I can to support him until he graduates and gets his master’s, gets his doctorate. But he’s got to pass the test on his own.”
And that is why Judge, like his manager, was so appreciative after the Yankees had vanquished the Indians and moved on. Their next test, though a formidable one, will not have to wait until next year.
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