10/07/06 1:57 AM ET
'We can't worry about losing'
It's win or go home for Yankees in Game 4 against Tigers
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
Facing elimination in the postseason is never a comfortable position to be in, but if any team has the veterans to handle such a scenario, it's the Yankees.
That's what New York will face on Saturday, as the Tigers try to send the Yankees home for an early winter in Game 4 of the American League Division Series.
"We have to just remember who we are and what we're about as a team," Johnny Damon said. "We have to pull in the same direction. We've been doing it all year, but tomorrow is key. We can't worry about losing. That's not even an option."
If anybody knows about the pressure of elimination, it's Damon. Two Octobers ago, he was a member of the Red Sox, who fell into an 0-3 hole against the Yankees in the AL Championship Series. Boston fought back to win four straight, propelling it to the club's first World Series title in 86 years.
"I feel real confident," Damon said. "We have to go in, not be scared and swing the bats. This is the playoffs. We're a good team for a reason, so we have to show it."
"I was on a team that won three and lost four in 2004," Alex Rodriguez said. "Anything is possible, and they know that over there. The thing we have to do is play with the most urgency we've had all year."
Derek Jeter has been in this precarious position more times than he cares to discuss, and the results haven't always been bad. Although the Yankees were eliminated in the first round in both 2002 and 2005 after dropping Game 3, they battled back from an 0-2 deficit in 2001 against Oakland.
"I'm sure they don't want to go to New York," Jeter said. "Our job is to get the series back there. We have to find a way to get it done tomorrow."
Jason Giambi remembers that 2001 series very well, having been on the short end of New York's comeback as a member of the A's.
"You can't let that creep into your mind; you can't start looking to the future," Giambi said. "We have to win tomorrow and then the day after that. We have to play the baseball that got us here. We've been through a lot of adversity with this ballclub, so we have a lot to fall back on."
That adversity includes the loss of Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui for most of the season, as well as an early-season hole in the AL East. Players such as Melky Cabrera helped New York overcome the injuries, while an improbable five-game sweep in Boston back in August boosted the Yanks to their ninth straight division title.
"I think this team responds really well to adversity," Rodriguez said. "Obviously, this is the most adverse situation we've been in all year."
On Saturday, the stakes are much higher than they have been at any time this season. Win, the Yankees go home for Game 5. Lose, they just go home.
"We've been in this situation before," Bernie Williams said. "We have to just dig down deep and play with whatever we have tomorrow. We have to set the tone early in the game, let them know that they're in for a fight. Then we have to just let everything else take over."
New York's powerful lineup hasn't scored a run in the last 14 innings. While all eyes will surely be on Jaret Wright on Saturday, the offense needs to snap that streak or Wright's performance may not matter much.
The Yankees have responded well to lopsided losses this season. After being blasted, 19-1, on July 4 in Cleveland, New York rattled off wins in nine of its next 10 games. Following a 12-2 beating at home against the Orioles on Aug. 17, the Yankees went to Boston and turned their season around with the five-game sweep of the Red Sox.
Friday's 6-0 loss may not have been as one-sided in terms of the final score, but Kenny Rogers' domination of the Yankees' lineup made a 3-0 lead feel like 30-0.
"One game is the season," Rodriguez said. "There's no doubt they have the momentum right now. I think the thing we have to do is come out and play with a lot of intensity and match their energy because they definitely took it to us."
"We definitely have our backs up against the wall," Damon said. "The momentum is all on their side right now, so it's up to us to steal some of it back early tomorrow. We have to win. We need that opportunity to go play in front of our fans in New York."
It all comes down to one game. Twenty-seven outs to either extend the season or extend the Yankees' championship drought to six years.
"Our only goal right now is to win one game; to have a one-game winning streak," A-Rod said. "We've worked too hard to go home tomorrow."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.