NEW YORK — It was a night where all of New York came together, two teams celebrating as one Saturday on the emotional 20th anniversary of 9/11.
But let’s be honest, this is still a Yankees’ town.
The Yankees, who had another team meeting after their seventh consecutive loss Friday, reminded New York fans not to give up on them, showing their resolve and resiliency in a wild 8-7 victory over the Mets in front of 43,144 witnesses at Citi Field.
The Yankees are far from a juggernaut, and aren’t about to catch the Tampa Bay Rays atop the AL East, but the Yanks are tied with the Toronto Blue Jays for the second wild-card spot and are just one game behind the Boston Red Sox for the top wild-card berth. Five teams are still hanging around a flawed wild-card race, bunched within two games of one another in the loss column.
“We wanted to remind guys that, ‘hey, we’re still in the playoff hunt,’ ’’ said Aaron Judge, who spoke at the team meeting Friday night, and hit two homers 24 hours later. “The world isn’t crumbling around us. We’re the New York Yankees. …
“I know when it comes to playoff time, a lot of teams aren’t going to want to play the New York Yankees.’’
Of course, they’ve got to get to the postseason first.
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This is a team that had lost seven consecutive games, dropping 11 of 13 overall, and blew a five-run lead in Saturday night’s game only to show their resiliency by coming back.
Maybe it’s the start of a September stretch to remember, or perhaps only a tease.
Time will tell.
“I believe in this team,’’ Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I believe in this group. It’s been ugly at times, but I don’t think (our) group will ever lose confidence (in) what we’re doing when we’re at our best.’’
Yet, they needed that team meeting in which Judge spoke to remind themselves they do have a world of talent, that they belong in the playoffs, and, of course, that they are the Yankees.
“I don’t like doing it,’’ said Judge, one of four players who spoke at the meeting. “I don’t want to do it. We’re family in that room. But it builds our bond a little stronger, and we came out with a chip on our shoulder.’’
Judge, who’s hitting .341 with 10 homers and 28 RBI in his last 33 games, certainly isn’t ready to have an early vacation. He hit a homer in the second inning for a 5-0 Yankees’ lead, and a two-run shot in the eighth inning to tie game, 7-7.
The trouble was that between Judge’s homers the Yankees went 0-for-16 with eight strikeouts until Brett Gardner’s eighth-inning single, which Judge followed with his second homer. He even helped save the game in the ninth with a sprawling catcher on Javier Baez’s line drive to left field.
“He can impact the game in so many ways,’’ Yankees starter Corey Kluber said. “He’s a very underrated outfielder. He’s a good baserunner. There’s numerous ways he can help a team win a game, and tonight he showed a lot of them.’’
Judge also turned a poignant evening into a celebratory one, with the Yankees taking great pride in their role in the anniversary, letting their fans know they’re not about to bow out of this wild-card race meekly.
“It was a beautiful night, it was a perfect night,’’ Boone said. “I think everyone in the room was honored to be part of the evening. I think our players really felt the emotion of the day, and they could feel the emotion in the building. …
“It was great. Weather-wise, perfect. Packed to the gills. The different chanting and cheering. The ‘USA’ chants. It felt like a unified crowd.
“It was nice to be part of other than a couple of idiots jumping over a wall and running onto the field.’’
Play was stopped twice with two different men running onto the field, circling around on the outfield grass, with one being body-slammed and the other slipping.
No matter, it was still a night the Yankees and Mets say they’ll forever remember with the emotional and poignant tribute on the field.
The two teams were lined up on the field in front of their dugout at 7 p.m. ET, walked towards one another 20 minutes later, embraced, and then stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the foul lines, showing that they’re all in this together.
“It was definitely emotional,’’ Gardner said. “At the end of the day, we are all part of the same team, all part of the city.’’
The only difference is that the team in the Bronx has won 27 World Series championships.
The one in Queens has only two titles, and none since 1986.
Togetherness or not, the Yankees aren’t about to pass the torch to the Mets.
“This was for the city, this was for Yankees fans, for everyone affected on this day,’’ said Judge, wearing an NYPD cap. “We represent the city of New York, and we represent this state.’’
Little wonder why Judge couldn’t even describe how it felt when he hit his two home runs, soaring around the bases, and thinking of the fans in the stands who lost loved ones during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“I don’t even remember running around the bases,’’ Judge said. “All I could think about was the city and the people that weren’t there. When I was out there on the field, I would think about the fans that weren’t there, individuals that lost family members.
“I was just honored and blessed to be out there on the field.’’
The feeling was mutual, his teammates and the Mets say. Players and coaches were overcome with emotion at times, knowing that together they helped those take another step towards the healing process.
“It was nice to bring some joy to the city, and give themselves something to be part of, a special atmosphere,’’ Boone said. “As bad as a day that was 20 years ago, it showed us what we’re capable of as a country.’’
It was 20 years ago that the Yankees won the American League pennant, and were in the World Series, losing in seven games to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Maybe, if their resiliency proved anything Saturday, they’ve got another magic ride left in them.
It may have meant just one game in the standings, but it was a giant step for Yankee Nation.
“It was a great game to be part of,’’ Gardner said. “I know it’s Sept. 11, but it definitely had the feeling of a playoff game.’’
The idea of a New York subway World Series, which seemed possible a month ago, now seems like only a dream. The Mets, at 71-72, are five games out of first place in the NL East with only 19 games remaining.
New York’s best hope for October baseball rests with the Yankees.
Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Yankees defeat Mets in emotional game on 20th anniversary of 9/11
Source: Yahoo Sports