Scott Thompson, SNY.tv | Twitter |
I get them now just thinking about two years ago, sitting in Section 405 as the Yankees prepared to face the Astros in the 2015 AL Wild Card Game. There was an undeniable buzz in and around the Stadium for the simple fact that postseason baseball was back in the Bronx.
But it didn't last long as Dallas Keuchel threw a gem, and outdueled Masahiro Tanaka to win the Wild Card Game and move on to the ALDS. It was the loudest I have ever heard the new stadium, and unfortunately, it was short-lived.
That night was stuck in my mind as I sat at my desk Tuesday staring at tickets to the 2017 Wild Card Game. Hearing the fans yelling at the top of their lungs at a win-or-go-home matchup was something out of a movie.
So, I bought tickets in Section 428, Row 14 (last row at the top), Seats 15, 16, and was on my way to experience that feeling once again.
As I got off the 4 train, the 'Let's Go Yankees!' chants filled River Ave as a sea of pinstripes flocked to Gates 4 and 6 to enter the Stadium. Once inside, the smell of hot dogs, popcorn, and beer had a more distanct aroma. You could feel the fans' excitement, suspense, and nervousness as you walked around.
It was postseason baseball in the Bronx again, and after the shocking season this young squad put together, it was bound to be a game for the ages.
After Luis Severino threw the first pitch for a strike, a thunderous roar filled the seats. That is until Brian Dozier hit a solo homer to give the Twins the lead. The Stadium, then, fell to a confused and disappointed murmur. Everyone felt like a kid on Christmas running downstairs to see the presents under the tree just to find only pine needles on the floor.
When Severino served up another homer to make the Twins' lead 3-0, I couldn't help but to think about 2015: The hype was there to start the game, but this isn't going to go the Yankees' way.
Oh, how I was so wrong.
When Chad Green took the mound, fans came to their feet desperately hoping he could get out of the jam. Two strikeouts later and hope was restored in the hearts of all those watching. Three runs was nothing for this Yankees lineup that has overcome adversity from the very beginning, when experts ruled them out of seeing a postseason game like this.
As Brett Gardner walked and Aaron Judge singled to make it first and third with no outs, all the doubt and despair disappeared. Everyone had a gut feeling the game would be tied up, and Didi Gregorius made it happen with one crack of the bat.
Pandemonium is the only way to descirbe what transpired after Didi's homer. It is moments like that where you don't mind beer, popcorn, and even clothes landing on you. I couldn't hear myself think as the fans created a mini earthquake from jumping up and down in unison. Hope was restored with one swing, and I'm sure the Twins dugout was sweating bullets as the momentum was taken from underneath their feet.
If that blast wasn't enough to send fans into a frenzy, imagine Gardner's go-ahead blast and Judge's rocket over the left field wall. People were sprinting around the concourse, crying in amazement, and high-fiving everyone in a 20-foot radius.
The Yankees had the lead, and with the crowd on its feet from that moment on, you knew they weren't giving it up any time soon.
When the ninth inning rolled around and Aroldis Chapman confidently jogged to the mound, the suspense was at an all-time high. This was it. Three more outs and the Yankees -- the team everyone counted out to start the season -- would be going on to the ALDS.
Two quick strikeouts sent the Twins to their last out, and the screams were deafening. It didn't matter that Joe Mauer singled to keep the Twins' slim hopes alive. With an 0-2 count to Jorge Polanco, Chapman came set, checked Mauer, and as he lifted his leg, the crowd came to a dead silence.
The Yankees defied all odds from the beginning, and the Wild Card win was the cherry on top to a season that is still alive in October. As the team celebrated on the field and fans followed suit in the stands, I couldn't help but notice the one thing that was constant throughout the ups and downs of the night -- from the minute I stepped off the train to the final out.