They would talk after the game, and rightly so, about the way Masahiro Tanaka pitched the game of his Yankees career, and about Greg Bird making one of those October home run swings that Yankees have so often made at Yankee Stadium. They would talk, rightly so, about how Aroldis Chapman got five outs for Joe Girardi and four of them were strikeouts, and how in that stretch of 1 2/3 innings Chapman might have thrown more 100 mph pitches, one after another, a lefty blur, than any postseason game has ever seen.
But none of it matters if Aaron Judge doesn't reach up just high enough and jump just enough to go over the right-field wall at the Stadium and turned what would have been a two-run homer for Francisco Lindor -- two nights after Lindor helped turn Game 2 of this Division Series into one of the worst postseason losses the Yankees have ever had -- into an out.
Because what Judge really did in that moment was bring the Yankees season out of the right-field stands and back into play.
Big players do big things at this time of year, sometimes in unexpected ways. Now Aaron Judge, the home run man, had kept Lindor from hitting one in Game 3. It was his glove this time, not his bat.
"I had to do something," Judge said. "I wasn't making any contact at the plate, so you have to make an impact on the game somehow. Luckily, I was able to do it on defense."
The whole night at Yankee Stadium, the best the Yankees have had since they won the 2009 World Series in the new place, was organized around that moment. On Friday at Progressive Field, the Yankees and Indians had played that memorable 9-8 Game 2 made more memorable because Joe Girardi, the Yankees manager, didn't challenge home plate umpire Dan Iassogna's call that Lonnie Chisenhall had been hit by a pitch with the Yankees ahead 8-3 in the sixth. Girardi had two challenges in his pocket, but didn't challenge the fact of the moment, that Chad Green's pitch had hit the knob of Chisenhall's bat. Then Lindor, next man up, hit his grand slam, high up the foul pole in right.
Now, on this rousing Sunday night at the Stadium, the same two teams reminded us all that a 1-0 game in baseball, especially in October, still can look and feel -- and sound -- like the greatest sports show on earth. But then so was the sport over the long weekend. Because before the four Division Series were over, here is what had happened October baseball:
Just about everydamnthing.
That 1-0 game happened at Yankee Stadium. Tanaka gave the Yankees that kind of start and Chapman gave them that kind of finish. Bird hit his home run. In the middle of it all, the guy whose nickname became All Rise this season did all the rising the Yankees needed, using all of his 6-foot-7 body to bring Lindor's ball back and almost making it look easy.
Earlier in the day, at old Fenway Park, it was Mookie Betts taking a home run away from the Astros' Josh Reddick, reaching over the famous low right-field wall at Fenway, not one eight-feet high like the one at Yankee Stadium. It was already 3-0 for the Astros, because they had already provided more first inning fireworks, in a weekend where we seemed to get fireworks like that from Fenway to Dodger Stadium. Now there were two on in the second and if Reddick's ball makes it into the seats, it is 6-0 for Houston and the Red Sox season likely ends right there.
Betts wouldn't let it happen. The Red Sox came back to win, 10-3. And in a form of crazy baseball symmetry -- real good symmetry for the Red Sox, bad for Reddick and the Astros -- Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a ball that was hooking towards the Pesky Pole later and Reddick came flying over and tried to reach into the stands to take a home run away from Bradley. Only the ball bounced off Reddick's glove and became a home run. So Mookie had taken Reddick's home run away, but Reddick couldn't do the same with the ball Bradley had hit.
"Once it was up in the air, I saw it had a lot of air under it so I figured it was going to stay in the park, but it just kept going and kept going," Betts said. "Fortunately I was able to run under it and the fan didn't interfere with it."
In the same game, of course, David Price had his own moment as he gave the Red Sox at least another game this season with four innings of shutout relief, throwing 57 pitches and striking out four just a couple of days after pitching out of John Farrell's bullpen in Houston. You kept expecting Price to come out of the game. He kept going back out there, and reminded you, in a game when the Red Sox season was on the line, of Madison Bumgarner in relief in that Game 7 against the Royals three years ago.
Stars of the Red Sox playing like stars when it mattered the most for their team. It had happened the night before at Nationals Park, when the Nationals were on the verge of falling behind 0-2 to the Cubs, and doing that at home. Only then Joe Maddon left his right-handed relief pitcher, Carl Edwards Jr., in to pitch to Mr. Bryce Harper himself. Harper promptly tried to hit one into outer space the way Judge kept hitting balls like that during the regular season. A few batters later, with Joe Maddon's left-handed reliever, Mike Montgomery, finally in the game, Ryan Zimmerman launched a three-run shot of his own, and the Nats were on their way to a 6-3 victory, and that series was about to be even.
Not such a great weekend, strategy-wise, for a couple of World Series-winning managers named Joe.
And that's not all. In the same first round, Jose Altuve rejoins the baseball postseason with three home runs in Game 1 against the Red Sox. Justin Verlander, who came to the Astros 'round midnight on the last night of August, stayed unbeaten for his new team. Through three games of Astros-Red Sox, Altuve had eight hits and the gifted kid who plays to his right, Carlos Correa, had hit a couple of home runs himself.
This had all the makings of a spectacular baseball October coming in. Now it has provided an opening week like this. The 6-foot-7 Judge makes a catch instead of a swing. The 5-foot-6 Altuve, who will likely beat out Judge for MVP, becomes the home run guy, right out of the box. Clayton Kershaw gets a win despite giving up four home runs. Corey Kluber gets pounded. Girardi and Maddon get pounded themselves, in a different way. While all this was going on, Max Scherzer hadn't even pitched yet. We had 9-8. We had 1-0. Mookie reached out. Judge reached up.
All Rise, for baseball. And we're just getting started.