By Ernie Palladino
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The wide eyes of youth narrowed long ago. If they ever asked the question “What now?” when faced with a dilemma, they haven’t posed it in ages.
To the Yankees, if not now, then later. If not yesterday, then today. And if not today, then tomorrow. Somehow, it’ll work out.
It certainly did Tuesday. Thanks to the continued awakening of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez and a whole lot of craziness, the Yanks gave themselves at least two more tomorrows in this AL Championship Series with a 6-4 come-from-behind win over the Astros in Game 4.
The series heads into Wednesday’s third game at Yankee Stadium all even, with Game 1 conqueror Dallas Keuchel facing Masahiro Tanaka. The guys in the lineup will remember full well what Houston’s ace did to them in that 2-1 Game 1 loss. And they’re no doubt hoping that Tanaka shows his All-Star form of the previous three starts as opposed to the former ace who struggled through a good part of the regular season.
But even if Keuchel is on and Tanaka is off, the Yanks know they always have a chance. They are battle-tested, not because they exploded out of a four-run hole against Lance McCullers, Jr. and the Houston bullpen Tuesday, but because they have done it all season.
The Bombers have shown a rare resiliency, and it has served them well in reminding them — and everyone else — they’re never really out of any game, any series.
Have a lousy July and August? Come back with a fantastic September.
Fall behind the best team in the league 2-0 in the best-of-five ALDS? No problem. Just figure out how to win three straight.
Down big Tuesday and baffled by McCullers’ dipping curveball? Feeling snakebit on Austin Romine’s catcher’s interference on Josh Reddick that led to Yuli Gurriel’s three-run double in the sixth and Starlin Castro’s error on Brian McCann’s bouncer that scored Marwin Gonzalez in the seventh? No problem whatsoever.
The Yanks showed no signs of panic. This has never been a woe-is-me team. And certainly Judge is no woe-is-me player, despite the boatload of strikeouts he has accumulated this postseason.
All he did was continue his recent resurgence by bouncing McCullers’ pitch off the batter’s eye in center, chasing the starter after six innings of two-hit ball. Chris Devenski, a very good reliever, came on and promptly gave up a triple to Didi Gregorius and a sacrifice fly to Sanchez to cut the deficit in half.
The kids weren’t done, either. Judge and Sanchez would account for three of the four runs that put the Astros to rest in the eighth. Judge banged an RBI double off the wall in left and Sanchez smacked a two-run double into the right field gap, the latter poke touching off utter chaos in the stands.
Judge has proved the coolest of customers throughout, handling what had been a 4-for-30 (.143) postseason slump with the same demeanor he showed during his midseason doldrums. A shrug and a smile.
It has worked for him, as he is 3-for-6 with two homers and five RBIs over the last two games.
Same with Sanchez. He has looked befuddled at times behind the plate. He cost them Game 2 with his failure to corral Gregorius’ ninth-inning throw to the plate that let Jose Altuve score the winning run. And he hadn’t had a hit or an RBI in 13 at-bats this series until his seventh-inning sac fly on Tuesday.
But the opposite-field double he smoked off Astros closer Ken Giles in the eighth may have changed all that.
The so-called “Baby Bombers” long ago traded in their diapers for big-boy pants. Tuesday’s win proved just another manifestation of their cool, patient approach to adversity.
If it ultimately doesn’t work out, it won’t be because they crumbled under postseason pressure.
That, they can handle.
Please follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino