Really, no one could have imagined this trio, three-fourths of the new core four (there are a lot of applicants for the fourth spot, with Luis Severino currently leading the way), would be in prime time this quickly.
“They’re ready,” third baseman Todd Frazier said when asked about how the Yankees were supposed to be rebuilding this season around these guys. “This is the spotlight for them, and I think they’ve changed a lot of minds. And you’re seeing what they can do.”
In the second inning Wednesday against the Houston Astros, Bird pulled an RBI single that revved up the crowd, Judge added an RBI double in the third, and Sanchez knocked an RBI single off Keuchel in the fifth.
For good measure, Sanchez smacked a solo homer in the seventh when Keuchel was long gone, and the Yankees won 5-0, moving them within one game of reaching the World Series.
A minute ago, it felt like they were at Triple-A Scranton, and now they are on the sport's biggest stage and nine innings from its greatest spectacle.
“We dreamed of playing together here and figuring it out along the way,” Bird said. “We enjoy each other and enjoy playing with each other. We always have. I wouldn’t say we dreamed of certain things, but we talked about it, definitely.”
What is special about this group is the players' approach. The DNA of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams is imprinted in these Baby Bombers, who, like their predecessors, value winning over personal goals.
“It’s great,” Judge said of the Yankees being one victory from the World Series after taking a 3-2 ALCS lead Wednesday. “But we are not done.”
Though Bird was the first to make it in the big leagues, he is the least known, at least nationally. He hit 11 home runs in 46 games in 2015. Sanchez went on his home run tear in 2016, and you might have heard about Judge’s 2017 rookie year.
Bird, 24, missed all of 2016 after shoulder surgery. In 2017, he missed most of the regular season with an ankle issue that was finally cured by surgery. He is a dangerous batter, particularly with Yankee Stadium's right-field porch.
“I think his actions speak for themselves,” Judge said. “He’s a fantastic hitter.”
This could be the first of many Octobers for this new core.
“When I think of Greg Bird, Gary and Aaron Judge, I could see about 150 home runs per year,” Frazier said.
Judge already hit 52 in 2017. Sanchez has 53 in his first 177 regular-season games. Bird has 20 in 94 games. Frazier’s projection is not crazy, especially considering these Baby Bombers arrived early in October.
“The key, I think is most important, is we enjoy each other and we enjoy playing with each other,” Bird said. “That’s a good thing. You build a good clubhouse with talented guys, you have something.”