We Yankee fans sure are a spoiled bunch, eh? Based on the collective reactions across the Internet to Joe Giradi's bizarre managerial tactics yesterday, you'd think the team just lost Game 7 of the World Series, instead of holding a 2-1 lead in the ALCS.
I am of course guilty as charged, and it's hard not to get caught up in the minutiae when you follow a team every single day from February through October across 30 spring training contests, 162 regular season games and however many postseason duels, especially when your manager more or less ensures you have no chance at securing a near-insurmountable 3-0 series lead due to a wide range of significant managerial gaffes.
Regardless, one of the many wonderful things about the game of baseball is that they play almost every day, which allows us to now focus our energies on tonight's Game 4 match-up between CC Sabathia and Scott Kazmir. It's easy to get deflated after a loss like last night's, but you still have to like the Yankees' chances of winning at least one if not both of the next two games behind Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, given that they have both pitched well so far (Sabathia's been great, Burnett's been good but could be better) and considering that this is exactly what they were brought here to do. Even in a worst-case scenario whereby the Angels take the next two games, the series would go back to the Stadium, and we all know how well the Yankees played at home this year.
Of course, if the offense outside of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Hideku Matsui and Jorge Posada (all of whom are OPSing over 1.000 for the 2009 postseason) doesn't wake up it won't matter who the Yankees send to the mound or where they play. Quite frankly, they won't deserve to win this series with the way the offense as a whole has been underperforming. The Yankees don't have a hit with runners in scoring position in their last 19 at-bats. Additionally, the bottom third of the lineup was exposed yesterday -- I mentioned this in the game recap, but it bears repeating that Robinson Cano is a sub-.100 hitter after the 7th inning in his postseason career -- as was the Yankees' thin bench minus Eric Hinske. Honestly, if Girardi lifts Matsui's bat for pinch-runner Brett Gardner late in the game again, I fear my television may not be long for this world, as Scioscia will again have no reason whatsoever to pitch to A-Rod if his "protection" is some combination of Gardner and Jerry Hairston.
Mark Teixeira in particular really needs to pick it up, as his .481 OPS is third-worst of the nine starters, besting only Melky Cabrera's .459 and Nick Swisher's appalling .390. Cano is 5 for 25 with a .539 OPS and Johnny Damon -- even with yesterday's solo shot -- is 6 for 28 with a .599 OPS. That's five of nine in the starting lineup OPSing under. 600 over the last six games, which means the Yankees basically have five Tony Womacks in the lineup right now.
None of this is meant to diminish what the Angels' pitching has accomplished. While it's obviously still a small sample size, it doesn't make it any less frustrating, especially when four of the guys in the lineup are mashing. All the credit in the world goes to the Angels' staff, who have managed to keep the Yankees at four runs in each of the three games played, no small feat against a team that scored the most runs in the Majors this year. The Angels are clearly getting the job done on the pitching side, and as painful as it would be to lose this series, if they do end up beating the Yankees then they will obviously be very much deserving of a World Series berth.
But let's not get too crazy here. The Yankees still have the bats and pitching to take this thing down, and a win tonight would go a long way toward quelling any lingering fears among the fanbase. There's a big mental (and obviously statistical) difference between getting ahead in the series 3-1 instead of dropping into a 2-2 tie, so this game is of course huge for both sides.
I'm not doing a liveblog tonight, so feel free to use this post as an open thread to chat about the Yankees while we wait for the game to start tonight (as much as yesterday's late afternoon start was annoying for a lot of people, having to wait until 8pm now feels like torture), and make sure you come back when the game is on so we can bitch and moan together about how wretched the offense looks and how bad a job Girardi is doing.