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SportsColumnistsMark Herrmann

Yankees’ walk-off wins show why it’s too early to give up on season

New York Yankees third baseman Chase Headley (12)

New York Yankees third baseman Chase Headley (12) celebrates after scoring the walk-off run on a passed ball in the bottom of the ninth inning of a game against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, June 30, 2016. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

There are two huge reasons to cool off the heated call for the Yankees to suddenly become trade-market sellers. The first is that the people making those decisions have said that is not going to happen, so the debate is moot from the start. The second is more subtle but important: The team has too much heart to have the plug pulled so soon.

For the second day in a row, they had a walk-off win against the team with the American League’s best record. Yesterday’s wasn’t as dramatic as the six-run, ninth-inning stunner Wednesday night, but it did show resourcefulness, coming as it did on a run in the ninth without having a hit. It also showed a resilience three days after an excruciating late, soggy loss Monday night (actually 2:44 a.m. Tuesday).

You remember that one. They were cruising to a win until Aroldis Chapman lost touch with the strike zone and Joe Girardi put the bee in the umpires’ bonnet, quietly reminding them that, you know, it was a monsoon out there. The game was halted until 2:15 a.m., by which time it was decided that Chapman shouldn’t return, and the Yankees let it all slip away against the Rangers. The point is, the Yankees had to forget it in a hurry.

“I’ll be honest. Monday might have been the toughest loss I’ve dealt with in my career,” Chase Headley said. “There’s a game you feel like you’re going to win, then you have the rain delay and all sorts of crazy things happen and you lose. Then Cole Hamels comes out and did what he did [Tuesday]. We bounced back in a big way.”

Headley knows that better than anyone, having run like crazy and slid hands-first across the plate with the winning run on a passed ball Thursday afternoon. He and the rest of the Yankees saw the 2-1 win as Part II of their unlikely 9-7 win 17 hours earlier.

Said Girardi, “Well, we have the ability to bounce back. And you have to be in this game because you’re going to go through unusual situations sometimes where you win games and you lose games, and you can’t make too much of one game.”

Nor should anyone make too much of Thursday’s game. The Yankees have been through this before: They grab a big win that they swear will turn their season around, then they fall face-first into mediocrity.

They are not a great team. They are 39-39, the archetype of mediocrity. But they don’t give up, as witnessed by the fact that they have overcome deficits in each of their past six wins and nine of their past 11. They deserve a chance to see if they can improve. The 2014 Royals and 2015 Mets both were 40-38 after 78 games. Both made the World Series.

If they can keep it close and get it to their three relievers, they have a puncher’s chance every night. Plus they have Didi Gregorius, who last year overcame the pressure of succeeding Derek Jeter and is even better this year. He won Wednesday night’s game with a home run (only the fifth walk-off homer by a Yankees shortstop since at least 1930, joining Phil Rizzuto, Mickey Mantle, Gene Michael and Jeter) and saved the day Thursday with a tying homer in the fifth inning.

The guy has miles and miles and miles of heart. His slugging ability notwithstanding, he was asked to bunt in the ninth Thursday and sacrificed perfectly. “I’m not surprised to get a bunt sign. I always try to help the team either way,” he said. “We’re not giving up. That’s the best part.”

He has earned the chance to see if he can help the Yankees make a push. If not, there will be time later this month to be sellers. Chapman could make some team a legitimate threat to win the World Series. The Rangers, in fact, could use him.

We’ll see where the Yankees are when they return to the Stadium two weeks from today.

It’s still too early to tell because the Yankees have shown they are at their best when it gets late.

New York Sports