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Ahead of Schedule, Yankees Push Toward World Series

CLEVELAND — You get one chance, just one, for a season like this in New York. Once a group wins, that becomes the expectation. It is like a first kiss: Everything changes, and there is no going back.

This was the Yankees’ bonus year, when nobody thought they would win very much — maybe not even the players. How could we all see this coming? Their best starting pitcher was awful last season. Their leading slugger hit .179. Their rivals looked stronger. This would be another season to wait for faraway free agents and groom the kids.

“I thought we were going to be better than people thought we were going to be,” said outfielder Brett Gardner, who also acknowledged his uncertainty.