Mark Texiera hit a single. So did Robinson Cano. And down by a single run with a two outs and a 3-2 count, the Philadelphia Phillies turned Yankees savior Raul Ibanez stepped into the batters box. One devastatingly gutsy slider from Phil Coke later, the Yankees officially have their back against the wall.
The question now is simple – can the 2012 Yankees match what only the 2004 Red Sox have managed to do in the history of baseball – come back from down 0-3 in the ALCS? I doubt it, but I wouldn’t rule them out just yet. CC Sabathia will be taking the mound in game 4, and the Yankees bats just have to come alive at some point. If they manage to in time, watch out.
Last night’s game really brought three issues to light for me. The first is the issue of the Yankees’ team chemistry. New York fans have been so quick to point out the Red Sox flawed chemistry, that perhaps they haven’t spent enough time reflecting on their own team’s lack thereof. There’s no question that the Yankees clubhouse doesn’t even begin to resemble the catastrophe that was the Red Sox this past season – hell, they made the playoffs. But I think it’s been apparent for a long time now that while stockpiling loads of talent can win you a championship on occasion, it’s incredibly tough to do it without the right chemistry in the dugout and locker room. Do you think the Yankees have the chemistry that the 2004 Red Sox had? Far from it. How about the Tigers of this season? No way. If you think the Yankees are playing for each other and not simply for those fat paychecks the only thing smoking more than you is Justin Verlander’s right shoulder.
Which brings me nicely to the subject of Justin Verlander, whose 132 pitch performance last night was yet another gem. Verlander’s last two seasons represent undoubtedly the most dominating pitching we’ve seen since Pedro Martinez decided to light up the league from 1997-2003. I can rest somewhat assured knowing that if the Yankees do push this series to seven games, it will be Verlander taking the mound.
All of this makes me think back to March, when I wrote my 2012 Red Sox season preview and mused on the competitive landscape of the AL. I wrote, “The Yankees will be good. The Tigers will be awesome.” And after a season in which I heard so much about the Yankees playing so well despite so many injuries, coupled with the Tigers’ relatively lackluster performance in the regular season, this sentiment seems to be ringing true at last. Detroit is now 9-3 against the Yankees in their last 12 meetings.
At the end of the day it’s tough to match up against a team with the most dominant pitcher in baseball, a triple crown winner, and Prince Fielder thrown in, just for good measure. I had been rooting for the Nats to win it all, but I’m now solidly in camp Detroit.