The situation really speaks for itself doesn’t it? The problem is obvious. The task at hand is self explanatory. Win tonight or the season is finished, and finished in an embarrassing way.
“I’ve been here four years now,” Nick Swisher said. “And never once have I felt like an underdog.”
Swisher might play tonight, or he might not. Same for Alex Rodriguez. Same for Curtis Granderson. Just let that sink in for a little while: The Yankees are facing a must-win Game 4 in the American League Championship Series, and it would be perfectly justifiable for any or all of those three to sit. That’s a third of the Opening Day lineup. That’s the sort of unexpected territory we’ve entered.
“You can’t really think about the big picture,” Raul Ibanez said. “You just have to take it one pitch at a time, one inning and one game at a time. Come out, win (tonight) and go from there.”
It’s cliche, but it’s true. The bigger picture comes with a lot of questions about performance and attitude and what comes next, but here and now, there is one game and the Yankees have to win it.
“I don’t think we’ve ever gone into a game thinking we were going to lose,” Mark Teixeira said.
A few more smaller-picture thoughts…
• Isn’t it odd that a team going through this sort of offensive funk could put together this many ninth-inning rallies? You’d think they’d be toast at the end of a game. I have no idea what it means, but it keeps happening.
• One unearned run in five innings for the Yankees bullpen last night. And that was without Dave Robertson or Rafael Soriano pitching. Boone Logan was absolutely terrific. It’s shocking how bad the Yankees offense has been, but it’s nearly as stunning just how good their pitching has been.
• There’s a reason the Yankees haven’t given up on Eduardo Nunez. You saw it in the ninth-inning at-bat against Justin Verlander, and you saw it on that diving play up the middle. The kid has tools, and he can be a force. What the Yankees do with him next year will be fascinating. If I were Joe Girardi, I’d start him again tonight even with CC Sabathia on the mound. He’s the kind of player who might actually spark something in this offense.
• I’ve said before that I liked Girardi’s strategy of sticking with his regulars, even though they were struggling. I still think the Yankees best bet of winning this thing is to hope their big bats finally start producing rather than trying to hunt down the hot hand every game. That said, Brett Gardner’s at-bats were much better than I expected last night. I might start him in center and Swisher in right for tonight’s game. If you’re trying new guys in hopes of new results, Curtis Granderson is the one I’d sit.
• I’ve been asked about it enough times to know people are wondering: I can’t see any way to get rid of Alex Rodriguez’s contract. I know there was a similar feeling about A.J. Burnett, but at least Burnett still showed a fastball in the 90s and a good curveball. Rodriguez looks like a totally different hitter, and with five years left on his deal, the Yankees have to hope he finds a way to use his current skill set effectively. If the power is gone and he can become an effective No. 2 hitter, the contract will be an overpay but at least he’ll be a viable everyday player. Right now he’s the small side of a platoon, and that’s a scary thought for the next five years.
• If this is the last we see of Phil Hughes this year, he left a positive impression. One good start in the division series, followed by an effective start when he clearly didn’t have his good stuff. He’s not close to an ace right now, but he’s getting more reliable.
• Ichiro Suzuki in his first postseason since his rookie year: .297/.316/.432. Not sure the Yankees will actually bring him back next year, but he’s been a much-better-than-expected addition.
• Want to try to feel good about what’s facing the Yankees? They have CC Sabathia pitching tonight. Then Andy Pettitte in Game 5. Then Hiroki Kuroda at home for Game 6. Then Sabathia on short rest for Game 7. Pitching is the only reason the Yankees are still alive, and having those guys lined up gives the Yankees a fighting chance.
• Want to feel hopeless about what’s facing the Yankees? They’ve played 30 innings in this ALCS and have scored in two of them. They have to score in at least four of their next 36 innings in order to advance.
Associated Press photos