10/19/10 2:20 AM ET
Down 2-1 in ALCS, Yankees won't panic
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
The last time New York found itself down, 2-1, in the ALCS was back in 1998 against the Indians. Ironically, the losing pitcher in the third game of that series was the same guy who lost to the Rangers, 8-0, on Monday night -- Andy Pettitte.
The difference was Pettitte had a better performance in Monday's loss, allowing two runs in seven innings. His only mistake was a two-run homer to Josh Hamilton in the first inning.
"Yeah, he pitched a great game," said manager Joe Girardi, who was the Yankees' catcher on the 1998 team. "He left one cutter up a little bit, and Josh Hamilton hit it out of the ballpark, and we know how dangerous he is. The two [homers] that he has hit out of the ballpark are breaking balls that we didn't get where we wanted."
Twelve years ago, Pettitte was hit hard, allowing six runs in 4 2/3 innings in a 6-1 loss to Cleveland.
But the 1998 Yankees team, arguably one of the best in baseball history because it won 114 games during the regular season, came back and won the next four games to advance to the World Series. Solid pitching proved to be the difference in that ALCS.
It marked the second time in Yankees history that New York was in a 2-1 hole and then won the pennant. The first time occurred in 1977, when the Bombers beat the Royals in a best-of-five ALCS, taking two must-win games.
Former Yankees right-hander Orlando Hernandez pitched the fourth game of the 1998 ALCS and helped tie the series at two games apiece. According to Hernandez, it was more than talent that helped the Yankees win the AL pennant that year.
"We were able to come back because we were able to focus on each member of the team, not individualism," said El Duque. "Everybody played for each other and played for the team. Everybody brought a grain of rice."
On Tuesday, Yankees right-hander A.J. Burnett hopes to duplicate what Hernandez did 12 years ago -- tie the series at two games apiece. For Burnett, it will be his first game since Oct. 2 against the Red Sox. Burnett doesn't seem concerned about the long layoff.
2-1 ALCS ADVANTAGE
|Year||Team up 2-1||Opponent||Final|
|1993||Blue Jays||White Sox||4-2|
"I don't think about it," Burnett said. "I go out like I threw five days ago and go with that mindset. I was telling somebody, I've done more flat grounds, because I've been throwing to [reliever] Dustin Moseley. He's a bullpen guy, and normally I'm a starter and throwing in-between starts.
"I've been doing a lot of things between my [simulated] game that I'm confident with where I need to be. I'm not going to go haywire with the mechanics. Curveball, it's going to be a big one that I can get over with strikes. I don't worry about mechanics. My priority is to throw strikes."
Hernandez not only believes that Burnett will win the game on Tuesday night against Texas, but that the Yankees will win the ALCS and advance to the Fall Classic for the second consecutive season.
"This is a great team. They have great players," Hernandez said. "I pray for them, too."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also can be reached on twitter -- @washingnats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.