Why the Yankees aren't dead just yet
It's tempting to think the ALCS is pretty much over at this point, after Cliff Lee's extraordinary performance in Game 3 on Monday night. The Yankees are down 2-1 in the series -- and are a Rangers bullpen meltdown in the eighth inning of Game 1 away from being down 3-0 -- and they are sending A.J. Burnett to the mound in Game 4. Yikes, right?
Well, maybe I'm giving the Yankees a little too much credit here, but I don't think this thing is over. Not even close. Maybe by around midnight tonight I'll have a different take, but right now I can give you three reasons why the Yankees are still very much alive:
1. Burnett will have an incredibly short leash tonight. It's not as if Yankees Manager Joe Girardi is going to leave him in there to absorb a seven-run beating in the third inning. The Yankees' bullpen will be on code red from the outset, and Dustin Moseley -- who pitched brilliantly in Game 1 (two innings, no baserunners, four strikeouts) -- could very well be the key to the game for the Yankees. And even though the Yankees' bullpen performed hideously Monday night in turning Game 3 into a laugher, Girardi stayed away from his most-trusted relievers (other than Kerry Wood, who threw 15 pitches) -- which means he can (and will) piece together plenty of outs from his bullpen.
2. Tommy Hunter, the Rangers' Game 4 starter, is no Cliff Lee. Don't be fooled by Hunter's seemingly strong numbers this season (13-4, 3.73 ERA). Hunter has a gopher-ball problem, having given up 21 homers in only 128 innings this season. Of his 23 starts, he gave up multiple homers in seven of them. And while it is a small sample size, he is also 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in two career starts against the Yankees. Maybe I'm crazy, but if my life depended on one win, and my choices to start were Burnett or Hunter, I might go with Burnett.
3. The Yankees' bats are overdue. Mark Teixeira is hitless in the ALCS. Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson have one hit apiece, while Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Brett Gardner and Marcus Thames have two each. Overall, the Yankees are hitting .194/.288/.296 for the series. I just can't see that continuing, especially against Hunter.
The Yankees' biggest problem remains Cliff Lee. He will be looming over their heads the rest of the series, ready to crush them in Game 7, if it gets that far. The Yankees' best (only?) hope is to win the next three.
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