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October 2, 2017

Aaron Judge

Brett Gardner

New York, New York

THE MODERATOR: Brett and Aaron are here. We'll take questions now. This is our media availability for the day. Fire away.

Q. Brett, one thing we've heard guys talk about who is played in previous postseasons is you have to do your best to normalize it. As a guy who has been there, how do you do that, and how do you maybe help younger players who haven't been there do that?
BRETT GARDNER: Well, I think one thing that helps is we played really, really well at home this year. Obviously, having home field advantage in the Wild Card Game, I think in the one-game situation like this, a lot of different things can happen. We obviously feel great about playing at home. That helps to keep it a little more normal for us and help us feel a little more comfortable.

Really just have a good day of practice today and come to the field tomorrow just like we came to the field Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday of last week and come ready to play.

I know that Ervin Santana's had a really good year, and he's a tough at-bat for us. But we have a good idea of how he's going to pitch us. We've faced him a couple of times, and we're looking forward to the challenge.

Q. (No microphone)?
BRETT GARDNER: Yeah, maybe a little bit here and there. Most of these young guys, as you guys know already, have a pretty good head on their shoulders and have a good idea what we're trying to accomplish.

It really is. It's just another game. It's not any different than games we played the last couple days. It's a must-win game. In order for us to advance and get to where we want to be at the end of the season, we have to play well.

Q. Brett, your perspective on this? Two years ago, when you guys came into the Wild Card Game, the team had not been playing very well, a lot of individual players had not played very well, and you were facing a pitcher who'd shut you out twice. This year you're coming in with a strong September. How do you feel differently this year going into this game than you did two years ago?
BRETT GARDNER: I feel good about our chances. I like the team we have. I like the fact we get to throw Luis Severino out there tomorrow. He's been pretty darn good this year. One of the top two or three right-handed starters in the game this year. He's a guy we love being behind. Once we turn the ball over to our bullpen, we feel good about that. And our lineup, I think we're going to score some runs and play some defense.

I'm looking forward to the challenge. I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I think our fans are going to be excited about it. I know we didn't win the division. We came up short. We pushed Boston right up to the end. That says a lot about this team. We never quit. We were five, six games back, and we kept pushing, kept pushing, kept pushing, and we came up a little short. We played a lot of meaningful games. We played really good baseball the last four or five weeks.

It's not necessarily the best team in the end that's standing, it's the team that's playing the best at the right time. I feel like we've been playing good baseball, and I expect to play well.

Q. Brett kind of hit on it a little bit. What have you seen out of Luis Severino's development this year, and why you guys are so confident in a do-or-die game with him on the mound?
AARON JUDGE: Just what he's done all year. He's been dominant. He's attacking hitters. He's always getting in the good counts. Every time I look up there, it's always 0-1, 0-2. He's never falling behind a lot of hitters. When you've got his repertoire and his stuff and you're getting ahead of guys like that, good things will happen. He just dominates hitters.

Q. Aaron, for everything that you've been through this year, everything's been kind of a first, and you've faced pretty big situations. The Home Run Derby was different for a lot of reasons, but nothing quite like this, where every at bat is going to be the biggest you've ever had. Is it hard for you to just make it like another game, or do you think you can kind of take that in stride and not put too much pressure on yourself?
AARON JUDGE: Yeah, like Gardy was talking about earlier, we're just going to try to treat it like we have the whole season coming here. We played well at home. I think once Severy throws that first pitch and we get the game rolling, it will all be the same. I think the buildup before the game is nerve-racking, but once we step out on the field, it's the same game we've been playing since we were little kids.

We're just going to go out there, keep competing, and having fun and go out there and try to win a ball game.

Q. I want to just follow up on Jack's question for a second. You said it's just another game. Do you recall how you felt in your first Playoff game, and were there any veterans who helped normalize it for you?
BRETT GARDNER: Yeah, I got called up in 2008. We were still in contention a little bit. We missed the postseason that year. And 2009 was part of a special team that ended up winning the World Series. It was a season that was a pretty special season. It was my first full season in the Big Leagues.

I remember thinking at the time, and I talked to Tex about this the last year or two, I thought we'd come back to the World Series every year, and it would be like this, and I was hanging out with the Yankees. Here we are however many years later, and we haven't been back.

I think it's one of those things where you realize what an opportunity we have in front of us, and it's the Wild Card Game. So anything can happen. But we have to play well, and if we play well, we'll win, and we'll continue. If we don't play well, we'll go home. Only one team goes home happy at the end of the year. Obviously, we want to be that team, but what we've accomplished this year and where we're at, I feel good about our chances.

Q. For both you guys -- and, Aaron, I'll start with you. You're out in right field. What's the atmosphere been like this year, and what do you expect tomorrow where the Playoff game has been building a little bit with Yankee Stadium? What kind of advantage do you guys have being home?
AARON JUDGE: The atmosphere in the stadium all year has been great. Our fans have been supportive of us even through the good times and bad times. They've been showing up. The place has been rocking. That's what I'm expecting for Tuesday's game, is a Playoff atmosphere. Postseason baseball in the Bronx is an exciting time, and our fans are behind us 100 percent. So I'm looking forward to it.

Q. Gardy, how can you -- you've been around awhile, and the older stadium was a little louder. What about this place?
BRETT GARDNER: It can still get loud. It just depends on the moment obviously. A couple years ago, obviously, the Wild Card Game against Houston, it was rocking, and obviously the game didn't end up the way we wanted it to end up, but our fans showed up.

We played some games this year that were, it seemed to me, like a Playoff atmosphere. I remember earlier in the year we played Houston a couple times and Boston, obviously, some close games, and even here in New York where you say to Aaron or we're talking with Ellsbury or Hicks in the outfield during a mound visit or pitching change, talk about the atmosphere and how great it is and how special it is.

That's one thing playing in New York. We're ready for that kind of atmosphere. These young guys have been around it, and they kind of know what to expect. I think they're all just going to enjoy the moment, and it will be fun.

Q. Aaron, how important is postseason success for us to judge your overall season?
AARON JUDGE: Well, that's what it's all about, postseason baseball. The regular season, it's kind of like Spring Training's over. This is the regular season now. This is what it's all about. This is where a lot of those numbers that are hanging out there in left field, this is where they made a name for themselves, in the postseason.

I'm just excited for this opportunity. What the team's done so far this year to get to this point from Spring Training to now is incredible. So it's going to be a fun postseason.

Q. I just wonder, both of you guys, how does it -- do you even incorporate the possibility that this has been a special, terrific season and it could end in three hours if it doesn't go right after all you've done this year?
AARON JUDGE: We're not trying to focus on that right now. We're just trying to focus on keep playing our game, what we've been doing the past month. We had a great September. If we keep doing that going out there, trying to win every pitch, keep having championship at-bats, things will go our way. We just can't really focus on the negative too much, just keep going out there and having fun and keep playing our game.

BRETT GARDNER: Yeah, I was here two years ago. So I know how that works, and it's one of those things where it's the way that it's set up and it's one game, and whoever wins advances and plays the Indians. So we're obviously excited about it. At the same time, we realize and recognize that it's the most important game of the season. Maybe for some of us, the most important game of our lives.

So that's why we play the game. Ever since we were little kids, we want to be in this position, and we want to be here in Yankee Stadium playing in a big game like this, and it's going to be a lot of fun.

Q. Gardy, if you guys win the Wild Card Game, do you think you should celebrate with champagne or just go on to Cleveland?
BRETT GARDNER: I haven't thought too much about that, but I do plan on winning the game, and I'm sure that after the game we'll be pretty excited to advance, and we'll celebrate a little bit, but we'll focus on preparing for the game, focus on preparing for Ervin Santana, and I know our pitchers will focus on preparing for their lineup and their guys.

It's going to be a good battle. It's going to be a lot of fun. But I do think that, when we win the game, I think that we'll be excited and be able to celebrate a little bit.

Q. Aaron, when we look at your final numbers for the regular season, there's a lot of eye-popping ones, but one that might get overshadowed is 155 games played, you and Brett are 1, 2 on the team. How much pride do you take in that stat, going out there for your team? And how do you feel physically after going through the grind of a full Major League season for the first time?
AARON JUDGE: I feel great physically. I'm playing baseball in October. Always feel good about that. That was one of my main goals this year because in 2016 my season ended early with an oblique injury, and one of my goals was I wanted to be a consistent part of this lineup. I wanted to be in there every day playing for my team through the good times and the bad times. I'm excited that I was able to play 155 games, just be out there with my team in the good times and the bad times.

Q. Brett, it's already been mentioned before that Keuchel obviously has handled you guys really well when you faced him in the Wild Card Game a couple years ago. You're going against Santana, who you guys have handled well for the most part since you've been here. Does that give you extra confidence? I know he's a good pitcher and can have a good game, but does it help you knowing you have hit him before versus going in against a guy who you couldn't solve at all?
BRETT GARDNER: Yeah, I think so. It's nice to be facing a guy who you've had a little bit of success off of. Like you said, he's a really good pitcher. He's had a really good year. He's throwing the ball as hard and as good and his off-speed stuff is as good as it's ever been this year. He's had a really great season, so it's not something you can look past.

It helps when you've had success off of a guy. Obviously, Dallas Keuchel had a lot of success off of us and continued that in the Wild Card Game. Tomorrow the little bit of success that we've had off of him will help us have a better game plan off of him.

Q. Brett, I know in Spring Training you guys, especially the veterans, were excited about the team because the young players. How realistic do you think at that time the playoffs were this year, and how much of what Aaron did early in the season added belief that you guys could be a special team this year?
BRETT GARDNER: I think the veteran guys in the room and most of the guys in the room in Spring Training, we always believed in ourselves and always believed in the chance that we had and the chance that we had to make the playoffs and have a good season. I think somebody brought to my attention early in the Spring Training, I think it was one of the writers, that we were predicted to be an 80 and 82 or an 81 and 81 team, and I thought we had a chance to be way better than that.

I think that it all starts with the pitching. I think our starting pitching has been pretty good. You look at a guy like Jordan Montgomery, who we didn't really know what to expect coming into Spring Training, and he ended up giving us -- I think he went over 150 innings. And just getting contributions from guys like that, and then with Didi and Gary out for the first couple weeks of the season, this guy set the world on fire and not only allowed us to get off to a good start but allowed us to believe in ourselves and believe that we had the lineup top to bottom to be able to score a whole lot more runs than we scored last year, and that's what it's all about.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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