By Sweeny Murti
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HOUSTON (WFAN) — Time to stop calling them Baby Bombers and call them by their given name — Yankees.
This is not a team on the rise anymore. This team has arrived. Regardless of what happens in Game 6, or, if necessary, Game 7, the Yankees have put themselves in a position that only the ones who truly belong can occupy.
The Yankees are one win away from going to the World Series.
It’s okay to refer to Baby Bombers in a late September push on a non-contender. It’s okay to call them that in spring training. When you win 91 games, you are no longer talking about potential. When you eliminate the defending AL champs in three straight after digging an 0-2 hole, you are dragon slayers. And when you fall into another 0-2 hole and win three in a row again to put yourself on the doorstep of the Fall Classic, you become a team that has grown into its potential.
The Yankees are still one win away from hoisting the pennant. But these Yankees are a train rolling downhill right now, and they are playing their best against the best when it matters most.
The kids who you hoped in April would show glimpses of future greatness are delivering big games and big moments on the big stage in October. And they’ve all overcome so much already that nothing seems insurmountable anymore.
We remember the ups and downs that were part of the brilliant seasons Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez put together. And the pitfalls and recoveries have been part of the postseason run as well.
Think back to just last weekend when Judge and Sanchez were a combined 1-for-14 in Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS. In those same games Houston’s Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa were 8-for-15 and scored all four of the Astros runs in those games, Correa driving in three of the four.
Before Game 3, I asked Joe Girardi if this was part of the learning process, noting that Altuve and Correa were playing in their second postseasons, while Judge and Sanchez were playing on this stage for the first time.
“Oh, I think it’s part of it,” Girardi admitted. “Every time you get involved in the postseason I think you take something from it and learn how to handle it better.”
And as the Yankees advanced and the lights got brighter, a new set of hurdles presented themselves.
“Each round you move through, in a sense the stakes get higher and you maybe try a little bit harder,” Girardi said. “I think they’re learning from it and I’m proud of the way they’re handling it. I know the results aren’t there that they want or we want, but I think they’re handling it really well.”
While Altuve and Correa cooled off and went a combined 2-for-22, Judge and Sanchez combined for three home runs, three doubles, and 11 RBIs in the three games in the Bronx. Their big blows in the Game 4 comeback and the Game 5 knockout of Dallas Keuchel shook the stadium at 1990s decibel levels.
Yankee moments — those big hits we like to think make players “True Yankees” in May or June — are just appetizers. Yankees don’t become made men until October. These and other big moments of the last two weeks — like Greg Bird’s homer in the 1-0 win in Game 3 against Cleveland or Didi Gregorius’ pair of homers against Cory Kluber in Game 5 — will be played on the Stadium scoreboard for the next two decades as the core memories for this Yankees run.
Calling it the next Yankees dynasty is wholely unfair. If Yankees fans have learned anything over the last two decades it’s how hard winning really is. But what the Yankees have the potential to do is build their star power again.
If Luis Severino can pitch the Yankees into the World Series Friday night his magical season will have an exclamation point added to it as well, a season that he and his teammates have all rebounded from since the first inning of the near disaster in the wild-card game.
One more win should be enough to retire the nickname and stop the talk of rebuilding. But in reality this group has done it already. They aren’t Baby Bombers anymore. And if they win the pennant, they will have earned their pinstripes.
Please follow Sweeny on Twitter at @YankeesWFAN