By Anthony Tripicchio
It has been done before, it can be done again.
This is the message Joe Torre must be preaching to his beleaguered team who return to New York for an elimination game against Cleveland on Sunday. The Yankees came back from a 2-0 deficit to win the 2001 ALDS against Oakland and find themselves in the same predicament this year.
Sunday’s start by Roger Clemens will determine whether or not his signing was worth all of $27 million for 19 appearances. Clemens is not here for the regular season, he’s here for the playoffs. He doesn’t even have to duplicate the masterful 6 1/3 scoreless innings thrown by his buddy Andy Pettitte on Friday night. Six quality innings of two run ball will suffice.
If he can’t do that, the Rocket Re-Launch was a miserable failure.
Regardless of the fact that Pettitte signed as a free agent in the offseason, he is not a mercenary like Clemens. He’s a true Yankee and he proved it again with a fearless performance in a pressure-packed Game 2. Granted, it didn’t equate to a win but it was a game marred by a late-inning bug infestation that visibly affected young flamethrower Joba Chamberlain who surrendered Pettitte’s 1-0 lead in the 8th.
By the way, it’s not unprecedented for a game to be delayed by bugs. There was a 35 minute delay at SkyDome on Aug. 27, 1990 when a swarm of bugs flew in.
The bugs were only a serious factor in the 8th inning on Friday night and the game would have been better served by waiting for the insects to leave. If you can delay a game for rain or snow, you should absolutely delay it for that type of chaos.
Fausto Carmona, Cleveland’s nasty sinkerballer, wasn’t derailed by the cluster of midges. He was outstanding in nine innings, making only one mistake to Melky Cabrera.
According to his teammate Ryan Garko, Carmona has dealt with bugs much worse than that in his winter ball experience. They didn’t teach that to Chamberlain in Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre.
Certainly, the Yankee bats will need to provide Clemens with more than one run if they hope to avoid a sweep.
A sweep, as improbable as it seems, would prompt a major facelift in the Bronx. Casualties could include Joe Torre, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, and Alex Rodriguez, all of whom could be free agents at year’s end. Of course, the Yankees would like to bring back Rivera, Pettitte, and Posada but the others remain to be seen. Rodriguez will need to hit like he did all year for the rest of the series in order for The Boss to pony up $300 million to resign the lightning rod. An 0-for the series would buy A-Rod a one-way ticket out of town, assuming he opts out of his current deal.
We can go on and on about how murderous the Yankee lineup is, but every postseason one truth remains: You win with pitching.
Luckily for the Yankees, Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd will take the hill in games three and four for the Indians. Those guys are not frontline starters, and if they impersonate them in those games we know what took place.
The Yankees' big lineup came up small again.