Third baseman Todd Frazier said the motivation for the Yankees' American League Division Series-clinching 5-2 win over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night was right there in the dugout.
"This one is for Joe," Frazier said of embattled Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "He got a lot of criticism after that second game, and we talked a lot, me and him. I couldn't be happier for him. I couldn't be happier for him."
Frazier was referring to the Yankees' Game 2 loss Friday. In that game, Girardi failed to challenge an on-field ruling that Indians outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall was hit by a pitch with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Replay showed that the ball hit off the knob of Chisenhall's bat on the 0-2 pitch. It should have been strike three to end the inning. Instead, Chisenhall went to first and loaded the bases for Francisco Lindor, who hit a grand slam off Yankees reliever Chad Green to cut the Yankees' lead to one. The Yankees lost 9-8 in 13 innings, putting the Yankees down 2-0 in the series and on the verge of elimination.
Girardi said his replay personnel did not have enough time to see the correct video replay angle in that loss and that he didn't want to ruin his pitcher's rhythm. He was vilified by the media for his decision and booed by Yankees fans in Game 3. He took responsibility for the no-call, saying he felt "horrible about it."
"A lot of criticism went his way and it shouldn't have, and we came together as a team for him. This one is definitely for Joe," Frazier said.
With the Game 5 win Wednesday, Girardi earned some redemption, as the Yankees will play the Houston Astros for the American League crown.
"The difference between [Game 2] and today is about as big as you can get. I don't know at any point in my career that I felt worse than I did on Friday," Girardi said. "As I expressed many times, it's the hurt for the other people that is so hard for me. So the emotions, I mean, these guys had my back and they fought and fought. And again, they beat a really, really good team," Girardi said.
Girardi added that he spoke with the team about the Game 2 non-challenge and owned up to his decision, saying he "screwed up. Plain and simple."
"All he told us was, 'Hey, let's play one game at a time right now, and that's all we can control right now. Whatever happened in the past happened in the past.' We, as a team, we always have each other's back," Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius said.
Girardi whose contract expires after this season has previously said his fate remains in the hands of team owner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman.
"After Game 2, Joe came up to me in this same spot [outside the manager's office] and said, 'Hey, man. I'm sorry,' '' Cashman said. "I told him, 'We just have to keep battling. Nothing is over yet.' No one on the plane home thought it was over at all.''
Now, the Yankees -- and Girardi -- survive for at least one more round.