HOUSTON -- To a man, the Yankees stood by their lockers following Friday night's 7-1 loss to the Astros in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series and expressed supreme confidence in their Game 7 starter, veteran CC Sabathia, the man who has unexpectedly taken over as their "stopper."
That confidence should serve the Yankees well on Saturday, when they'll try to keep their surprising season going in the ALCS presented by Camping World at Minute Maid Park.
This will be the fifth time in 18 days that the Yanks will play with their season on the line. They survived a dreadful start by Luis Severino in the AL Wild Card Game, then won three straight elimination games against the 102-win Indians, stunning the league's best regular-season team with a Game 5 victory in hostile territory.
That game, more than any other, is why manager Joe Girardi feels good about his team's chances in Game 7.
"It's a situation our guys have been in a lot," Girardi said. "Put tonight behind you, move on, and let's be ready to go tomorrow."
The Game 6 loss suggested a blowout, but the final score wasn't indicative of the type of game the Yankkes played.
Severino went toe-to-toe with Justin Verlander through four innings of a scoreless game, but the Astros got to the 23-year-old for three runs in the fifth. Aaron Judge's majestic home run in the eighth made it a 3-1 game, but Houston broke it open against reliever David Robertson in the bottom of the inning, allowing the sellout crowd to exhale and start dreaming of Game 7.
But just as the Yankees didn't panic when they were down three runs in the first inning of the Wild Card Game, or when they dropped the first two games of each subsequent series, it's unlikely this group -- as young and inexperienced as much of it is -- will suddenly abandon its personality heading into the winner-take-all showdown.
"I think guys are going to be relaxed and loose," third baseman Chase Headley said. "We've been here quite a bit. Win, lose or draw, we're going to go out and be us. We're not going to be tight, we're not going to be pressing. I like that combination."
Outfielder Brett Gardner, the longest-tenured player on the roster and only one of three current players from the 2009 team that won the World Series, believes the organization starts preparing its players for moments like this as soon as they begin playing pro ball. So as young as Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and the rest of the Baby Bombers are in terms of experience, they haven't shied away from anything this October, no matter how bleak things might have looked.
"Down the stretch this year, we were trying to catch the Red Sox and we never really had time to let up or set up our rotation for the postseason or look forward at all," Gardner said. "We were always living in the present. All the games, especially in September, they were really, really important games. It prepares young guys for the Postseason."
It's difficult to imagine anything being too big for Judge, who shook off a 2-for-27, 19-strikeout start to the postseason to go 10-for-16 with three homers in the past four games. As he looked ahead to Game 7, he was so calm and collected, it was tough to tell whether he even realized what was at stake.
"We've been in this situation before; Wild Card Games, in Cleveland, same kind of thing," Judge said. "Nothing changes. The mindset is still the same. Go out there and fight, prepare the same way we've been doing all year."
For all the talk about Judge and his band of Baby Bombers, the Yanks will look to Sabathia to set the tone in Game 7.
Sabathia, who is 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season following a Yankees loss, has seen everything this sport has to offer during his 17 seasons in the Majors, so it's unlikely a raucous Houston crowd or the sight of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa will rattle him as he tries to pitch the Yanks into their 41st World Series.
"I've said before there's nobody we would rather have on the mound in a big game but him," Gardner said. "He pitches well for us after we lose. We lost tonight, we're playing tomorrow and he's pitching."
With a stacked bullpen behind Sabathia and a lineup that scored seven runs against Charlie Morton in Game 3, the Yankees like their chances. Why wouldn't they? One more win and they'll be headed to Hollywood to open the World Series on Tuesday night against the Dodgers.
"If you had told us at the beginning of the year that this is where we would be, Game 7 of the ALCS, I think everybody would have been pretty happy about it," Headley said. "We just have to come out and find a way to win tomorrow."
Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.