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When requested how the Yankees may get previous the Boston Red Sox in a wild-card recreation that might prolong or finish a season that has had numerous ups and downs, Bucky Dent had some tongue-in-cheek recommendation: “Use Mickey Rivers’s bat.”
That transfer labored for Dent 43 years in the past; who’s to say it wouldn’t for a Yankee on Tuesday evening?
Like the current group, one measly recreation at Fenway Park decided whether or not Dent and the 1978 Yankees would proceed their season. That time it wasn’t a playoff recreation, however slightly a 163rd common season recreation as a tiebreaker made crucial after the Yankees erased Boston’s 14-game division lead down the stretch. There had been no wild playing cards again then, and but the Yankees and the Red Sox discovered themselves in a do-or-die state of affairs on Oct. 2.
Ultimately, the Red Sox drew the brief straw. Dent’s seventh-inning, two-out, three-run homer off Mike Torrez — launched with Rivers’s lent lumber — was at the middle of Boston’s demise. The Green Monster-clearing blast put the Yankees up by 3-2 and silenced the dwelling crowd.
“It felt great,” mentioned Dent, admitting that he didn’t notice the ball was gone till the umpires gave a sign. “I remember running toward home and I could hear the sprinkling of Yankee fans cheering.”
The Yankees gained the recreation, 5-4. Dent’s homer impressed Red Sox Manager Don Zimmer to coin an unprintable nickname for Dent, giving him a brand new center identify for baseball followers in New England. All these years eliminated, Dent nonetheless considers the obscene moniker a “badge of honor.”
But he was not the solely Yankee central to their foes’ downfall. Reggie Jackson supplied insurance coverage with a homer, and Ron Guidry dealt six and a 3rd innings of two-run ball after demanding to start out on three days’ relaxation. Rich “Goose” Gossage allowed two earned runs over two and two-thirds innings of aid, however he held the line and induced a Carl Yastrzemski pop fly to finish the recreation and full Boston’s epic collapse.
Fast ahead to 2021, and the Yankees are about to play one other win-or-go-home recreation at Fenway. The state of affairs shouldn’t be precisely the identical because it was in 1978, however Dent sees the similarities and is aware of what the fashionable Yankees are in for.
Dent remembers the seriousness of Game 163. Players tried to remain unfastened throughout batting apply, however a heightened depth stage may very well be felt as the recreation progressed. “It was one of the greatest games I ever played. It’s the most pressure game that I’ve ever been in in my entire athletic career,” Dent mentioned. And but, he insisted he felt no jitters throughout his most well-known at-bat.
“I wasn’t nervous. You have that adrenaline, and you know it’s a big moment, but you just kind of block all that stuff out and focus on what you’re trying to do to get a base hit,” Dent mentioned. “I didn’t really think about negative things.”
Guidry, who gained the American League Cy Young Award in 1978, mirrored on the tiebreaker with related bravado — and was positive most of his teammates would, too.
“I never got nervous,” he mentioned bluntly. “You have to understand the characters that we had on that team.”
Now Gerrit Cole is the Yankees’ ace with a Cy Young case. He will toe the rubber in Boston, reverse Nathan Eovaldi. Cole has pitched to combined outcomes towards the Red Sox this yr, however his efficiency Tuesday shall be the just one anybody remembers.
Guidry mentioned the Yankees’ present No. 1 starter must go “out there with that mentality of, ‘I’m Gerrit Cole, come get me if you want me.’ And then you let the chips fall where they may.”
“Look, you either do it or you don’t,” Guidry mentioned when requested if he considered the stakes at hand in 1978. “No. If you start thinking about that, then yeah, you’ll bring pressure on yourself. But my job was to keep the game close. That’s all I tried to convince myself to do. You keep the game close, somebody gets a big hit, it should work out. And if you don’t, then you gave it your best. That’s all. Like I said, I do it or I don’t. There’s no in between.”
With Dent’s homer and Guidry’s left arm main the approach, that plan went as easily as the Yankees may have hoped. After vanquishing their archrivals, the 1978 Yankees defeated the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, with Dent being named the most useful participant of the World Series.
“If we wouldn’t have won everything, then probably all of these things I accomplished wouldn’t have meant as much,” Guidry mentioned.
The postseason is a crapshoot, and this Yankees season has been a relentless curler coaster. The experience may screech to a halt Tuesday in Boston, or it may finish with a parade down the Canyon of Heroes in just a few weeks’ time.
However lengthy it might be, Guidry and Dent plan to observe alongside. And as for the latter’s actual recommendation? Don’t lose sight of the process at hand in enemy territory.
“You just gotta be locked in,” Dent mentioned. “You gotta be in the moment the whole game. Any time you’re playing in a game like that, you can’t drift off.
“Any mistake can cost you the game. That’s the way our team went about their business.”