Oftentimes, Yankees playoff losses are portrayed as tragic events that prove that at least half a dozen people should be traded and/or fired. Almost as often, this is just silly overreaction. Last night, for example, was just one game, and it was a game against as good a pitcher as they’ve seen all year. Losses happen, and though winning the World Series opener would have been ideal, the sky isn’t quite falling yet. Tonight, though, is a different story.
It’s not just that going to Philadelphia down two games would be bad (though it would be). After all, they won three straight in Atlanta in 1996 after losing the first two games at home. It’s that being down two games in this particular series presents a problem. The Yankees have gotten this far without the use of a fourth starter, and that bill is coming due. No matter how they choose to deal with this, it weakens them for at least one game later in the series (should Chad Gaudin start a game), and maybe for as many as four (should everyone start on short rest after Game 3). Either one of these scenarios (or any creative variations) makes it that much harder for them to dig themselves out of a hole.
With that little bit of pessimism out of the way, on to the actual game. You may have heard that Pedro Martinez is pitching. After last night, anyone not named Cliff Lee will be a welcome sight, and at the very least, the Yankees should get a crack at the Phillies’ bullpen. Back when Pedro was with Boston, wearing him down and jumping on middle relief was always the best way to beat him (aside from letting Grady Little do it for you). This can be done, though. As recently as Game 2 of the NLCS, Pedro threw seven shutout innings only to get a no-decision after the bullpen lost the game.
Of course, the Phillies would like to do the same thing to A.J. Burnett. He needs to avoid the Big Inning he’s prone to giving up, but he also needs to pitch deep into the game. (The bullpen could use a rest, but mostly the Yankees are just better off if the non-Rivera members of the bullpen don’t have to pitch.) The season is more or less on the line tonight, and Pedro Martinez is on the mound. They’ve been here before, and they’ve survived before, too.