Ed. Note—Jared Foretek is a new writer for the Flat Hat Sports section. To make him feel comfortable, we told him to write about what he knows best. Unfortunately, he chose the Yankees.
Pessimism doesn’t come naturally to Yankees fans. When your team has amassed 27 World Series championships, consistently features the most talented — and highest-priced — roster in the major leagues, and is run by a family whch may as well have coined the phrase “second is just the first loser”, it takes a lot to really start feeling desperate.
But after dropping three games in a row by a combined 20 runs and with starter Cliff Lee looming in the Rangers’ back pocket in the event of a game seven, I’ll admit that I’m starting to feel like title number 28 will just have to wait until next year. Yes, a Yankees fan just used that phrase.
The seventh, eighth and ninth innings of game one certainly evoked more familiar feelings. It felt like the universe was coming into balance when, in the eighth, the top five hitters in New York’s lineup scored before the Texas bullpen even got an out, putting the Yankees up 6-5. And, of course, nothing makes a Yankees fan feel more at home than watching Mariano Rivera decisively close things out in the final frame. Sure, he allowed a leadoff single to Mitch Moreland, but who really thought Mo would concede his 14th ever postseason earned run in his 138th postseason inning?
While the Yankees didn’t win it, game two gave no reason to hit the panic button. Admittedly, after our three-game sweep of Minnesota in the divisional series, I had visions of New York running the table and cruising to our second title in as many years, but it never really seemed plausible. Even the record-setting ’98 Yankees dropped two in the ALCS, and while the 2010 team is good, it didn’t win the most games of any team this year, let alone ever.
It was after that game two loss that I started to feel like we might not actually be as dominant as we’d looked in the first four games of the playoffs. And with Lee — who has absolutely dominated Yankee bats every chance he’s gotten over the last few years — set to pitch game three, the daunting prospect of going down 2-1 in the series began to seem real. I had no idea.
When Josh Hamilton hit a two-run home run in the top of the first, the deficit started feeling very real. Still, nobody knew what Lee had in store for New York. He baffled the Yankees lineup, seemingly without breaking a sweat. Marcus Thames struck down swinging at a breaking ball in the dirt, Jorge Posada looked at a third-strike fastball over the heart of the plate. By the end of his outing, Lee had struck out 14 batters, and by the eighth inning, I couldn’t remember the last time a player in pinstripes had hit the ball hard. It wasn’t that I was going senile — it was that the Yankees had hit the ball to the outfield just four times in Lee’s eight innings of work.
After facing eight innings of Cliff Lee, certainly the Yankees were prepared to tee-off on the less accomplished Tommy Hunter, right? Apparently not. Once again the Yankees bats fell asleep in the Bronx, and one more A.J. Burnett implosion later, I found my team in a 3-1 hole.
Finally the Yankees’ hitters showed up Tuesday in game five, and for the first time this postseason, C.C. Sabathia looked like the Carsten Charles that Yankees fans have come to know and love. But heading back to Arlington down 3-2 is not what any Yankees fan had in mind as an ideal scenario.
Maybe the Yankees will have an incredible turnaround, hitting like we all know they can. What’s far more likely to happen, however, is that Lee will come back out for a game seven in which he once again befuddles Yankee hitters, and the Rangers will move on to their first World Series appearance ever. On the bright side, Lee becomes a free agent after this season, and while any winter in New York without a World Series title is unsettling, it’s hard to think that the Steinbrenners won’t make a real effort to get the Alabama Ace in pinstripes next season. Heck, if you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em.
You’ll be hearing more from Jared soon. Hopefully by then, he’ll have better taste in baseball teams.