It's been three years since the Yankees faced elimination in a playoff game: October 8, 2007, when Chien-Ming Wang took the loss (his second of the ALDS) on three days' rest against the Indians. (This game is better remembered as the last one Joe Torre would manage in pinstripes.) And so today, the Yankees once again find themselves with no room for error — no room for another subpar outing by CC Sabathia, no room to squander prime scoring chances, no room for the bullpen to let another relatively close game get out of hand.
On that final point, Mariano Rivera and Kerry Wood can both pitch more than an inning today, according to Joe Girardi, but let's be honest: With CC Sabathia pitching, on regular rest, they're not supposed to need to squeeze three or four innings out of the bullpen. Sabathia was supposed to be the one given in the rotation, and thus far — like too many of this team's marquee players — he's failed to deliver. He didn't have his "A" stuff against Minnesota, and he struggled in the ALCS opener, lasting just four innings. They won both of those outings, yes, but especially considering the current state of this offense — and its inability to drive in runners (again, Friday's top of the eighth excepted) — they need 2010-ALCS Sabathia to resemble 2009-ALCS Sabathia.
With Mark Teixeira out, Robinson Cano will bat third today, Marcus Thames will DH, and Lance Berkman will play first. It's pretty much all hands on deck now: Only A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte are totally off-limits today. Even with a win, there's still a lot of work to be done. But that win needs to come first, no matter the psychological (and in Mark Teixeira's case, physical) toll of Game 4. First pitch — not counting the ceremonial ones thrown by Aaron Boone and Bucky Dent — is approximately 90 minutes away.