So that game didn’t go exactly as planned.
You can divvy it up however you want, but the honest truth is that Phil Hughes did not pitch like a Game Two starter is supposed to pitch, and Colby Lewis did–at least enough to keep the Yankees unbalanced and make his pitches when he had to.
So now the Yankees head back to New York City, with the ALCS tied at one game a piece, and Cliff Lee slated to pitch on Monday and AJ Burnett on Tuesday.
Some, such as Ian O’Connor, might argue it’s time to panic.
Here’s why you shouldn’t.
1) Cliff Lee is not unbeatable, even in the postseason.
In Game Five of last year’s World Series, Lee pitched seven innings, allowing seven hits and five runs, all earned. No, the Yankees did not win that game–but that had more to do with AJ Burnett’s poor start than Lee’s good one, which wasn’t actually a good start. If you remember the Yankees almost completed a ninth-inning come back.
More recently, this August, Lee pitched six-and-a-third innings, allowing eight hits and four runs.
Cliff Lee is a very, very good pitcher. He has mind-boggling numbers in the majority of his postseason starts. He is not unbeatable.
2) Andy Pettitte will be on the mound for the Yankees on Monday, opposing Lee.
Name me another Yankee starter you’d rather have on the hill in the postseason in a Game Three scenario.
3) AJ Burnett is not an automatic loss.
First of all, to get it out of the way, if the Yankees are down 1-2 going into Tuesday’s game, it’s entirely possible Sabathia pitches on short rest. Of course, the Yankees would prefer that from occurring, but let’s say AJ does pitch Game Four.
Last year, at home in the postseason, Burnett was fantastic.
In three starts at Yankee Stadium, in a total of nineteen innings, Burnett allowed four runs. While past performance does not guarantee future performance, it should be of some comfort to know that it’s not as though Burnett has never pitched a postseason game at Yankee Stadium, or never pitched a decent one.
Tommy Hunter, good as he may be, is not Sandy Koufax, and the Yankees’ A lineup is, well, pretty good. They don’t need Burnett to be perfect, they need him to give their lineup a chance.
4) The bullpen has been fantastic.
The Yankees have, through five postseason games thus far, allowed just three runs in the sixth inning or later, and two of those in the sixth inning itself in games one and two of the ALDS. Otherwise, seventh inning on, with the exception of one run in the 8th inning of ALCS Game Three–a game the Yankees led by a considerable margin–the bullpen has been flawless.
Mariano, of course, is Mariano, and David Robertson has taken to pitching in the postseason like a fish in water, but Boone Logan had been great, Kerry Wood’s been good enough, Dustin Moseley was nothing short of heroic on Friday night and Joba Chamberlain’s been good himself.
TBS threw out a stat about the Yankees and the great scoring disparity when it comes to the seventh inning or later–the excellence of the Yankee bullpen has more than a little to do with it.
5) Home Sweet Home
The ALCS is returning to the Bronx, and since the Yankees still can clinch in five games, they have the home field advantage.
You can argue that it’s a moot point because it clearly didn’t hurt the Rangers in Tampa, but Yankee Stadium is still Yankee Stadium. Even if it doesn’t hurt the Rangers, it will (theoretically) help the Yankees.
The ALCS has now become a Best-of-Five series, and hey, if you have Andy Pettitte going in Game One of a Best of Five, it’s not the end of the world. Far from it.
The Yankees have been here before; they know what to do.
Keep calm, and carry on.