Now comes the heavy lifting.
The Yankees have gone from expected winners over the Twins in Tuesday’s wild card to underdogs against the Indians in the best-of-five American League Division Series.
The Yankees are not buying it.
“This is a new team,’’ CC Sabathia said early Wednesday morning in the champagne-soaked clubhouse at Yankee Stadium. “This is a new core and we’re ready to rock.’’
The Indians host the first two games on Thursday and Friday. The Yankees have a home game on Sunday, and, if necessary, Monday. The Indians will pitch Trevor Bauer in Game 1, followed by Cy Young-favorite Corey Kluber (who would also pitch a potential Game 5) and Carlos Carrasco. Joe Girardi likely will announce his rotation Wednesday after the Yankees’ evening workout at Progressive Field.
Sonny Gray will pitch in one of the games in Cleveland.
“It’s something that everyone wants the opportunity to do,’’ he said. “I’m excited that l’m going to get a chance to pitch. Hopefully tonight was the first chapter of a lot longer book.’’
The perception that the wild-card win was enough does not sit well with the Yankees.
“Who just wants to play for the wild card?” Didi Gregorius said. “We want to play to win everything. That’s what you shoot for.’’
AddedTodd Frazier: “We got this [wild card] out of the way, we’re going to Cleveland. They haven’t played in four days, hopefully that will kick start us and we’ll get off the bat real quick there. I think we can win it all. The sky’s the limit to be honest with you.’’
The out with the old, in with the new attitude was solidified in the wild-card victory. Erased was the memory of the 2015 moribund shutout loss to the Astros.
“It’s just a stepping stone,” Aaron Judge said. “We got good chemistry. We’re just going to keep it rolling into Cleveland . . . We’re just getting started.”
Judge was fresh off his first postseason home run and didn’t mind talking about himself this one time.
“It’s just an incredible experience,” he said. “You dream about it as a kid. I’ve lived that moment about a thousand times in the batting cages, in BP. It doesn’t feel the same. It was an incredible experience.’’
The 102-win Indians are arguably the best team in baseball. They won an American league record 22 games in a row, including a three-game sweep of the Yankees in September at Yankee Stadium.
“Incredible lineup all the way up and and down, great starting rotation, great bullpen,’’ Judge said. “It’s going to be an incredible challenge.’’
In addition to strong starting pitching, the Indians’ bullpen has former Yankee Andrew Miller. Leadoff hitter Francisco Lindor hit 33 homers. Lefthanded batter Jay Bruce, the former Met, will take aim at the short porch in Yankee Stadium.
“Now you really feel like you’re in a playoff series,’’ Chase Headley said. “Obviously, we got a tremendous team coming up against us. We know that we have a lot of pieces that can do a lot of things. We’ll take our chances. A team that was a couple of outs from winning the World Series last year. They’re not any worse this year than they were last year. We got our hands full. On the same token, I think we got a pretty good club that can do some things as well.’’
Brett Gardner, squinting from the champagne stinging his eyes, wants more of the same.
“That’s why I don’t wear goggles,’’ he said. “We haven’t taken our foot off the gas pedal at all. You get in this to win the whole thing. Obviously a lot of people think we’re further ahead than they expected us to be. That’s not necessarily the case in this clubhouse. We feel like we’ve got a chance to go out and beat anybody.’’