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The Yankees have 'em right where they want 'em, right?
|The D-Backs shouldn't hesitate to start Schilling in Game 4, writes Schlegel.
Remember, they've already shrugged off a 2-0 series deficit this October, storming back in the American League Division Series to beat the A's. They acted like the greatest team of their generation, completing a historic comeback to advance past what might have been their stiffest competition.
Nope, you can't count out the Yankees. The A's discovered that.
But don't count on a comeback this time.
Up 2-0, the Arizona Diamondbacks would have to self-destruct in much more spectacular fashion than the A's did in order to surrender this World Series to the Yankees.
Not that the A's handed the ALDS to the Yankees, and it wasn't the A's counting out the Yankees but rather outside observers. The Yanks won that series fair and square. They were brilliant in the two games in Oakland, and they simply didn't make mistakes while allowing the A's to make theirs in Game 5.
But the Yankees are reeling even more than they were when they were heading back to Oakland after losing Game 2 of the ALDS at home.
The 1-2 punch of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson the Diamondbacks just unleashed on them will do that.
Through the first two games, things couldn't have possibly gone better for Arizona. You could have said the same thing about the way things went for Oakland, and the A's had the advantage of heading home for two games needing to win just one to end the Yankees' dynasty.
Even if the Diamondbacks have to travel to New York to become the first team ever to don purple in the postseason at Yankee Stadium, the National League champs have five games to win two. The Diamondbacks have to like their chances, especially with Schilling and Johnson in the mix at least two more times.
Like that cap Joe Torre has worn after Game 2 of the ALDS reads: It ain't over till it's over. That's still true today, but the Diamondbacks stand a better chance than the A's of making sure it's over on their terms.
That said, here are a few lessons learned by the A's in the ALDS that the Diamondbacks might want to heed:
Go for the jugular
In other words, don't hesitate to start Schilling in Game 4. And if you've got the Yankees on the ropes, throw Big Unit out there for Game 5. Don't hold back your best.
The A's did, but they had to, really. The A's wisely weren't going to bring back 24-year-old lefty Mark Mulder -- a second-year Major Leaguer -- on three days' rest, so they went with No. 4 starter Cory Lidle in Game 4 and lost.
While Lidle clearly pitched well enough in the regular season to earn a postseason shot, he was put in the unenviable position of having to step into the brightest spotlight of his career while stepping back on the mound after a 10-day layoff. He'd pitched seven innings against Arizona Fall League competition, but that amounts to playing catch compared with playoff ball. He wasn't sharp, and that made a difference.
Schilling has come right out and said he's ready for Game 4, having used only 102 pitches to spin his Game 1 gem. Johnson used 111 pitches in his Game 2 shutout.
Miguel Batista has been slated to start Game 4, but he's so resilient he could be used as a safety net for Brian Anderson in Game 3 and used again on the off chance Schilling or Johnson gets roughed up or tired.
Even if it gets to the point where there's a Game 7, at least you've got another chance to use Schilling.
Use all the weapons at your disposal. The Yankees are an amazing beast.
OK, OK, so bringing up Jeremy Giambi's non-slide in Game 3 two weeks after the fact might be like retelling the same joke for the umpteenth time. Giambi's taken plenty of heat for that play, which -- regardless of his part in it -- was the turning point of the ALDS.
Yes, it took Derek Jeter's superhuman effort to shovel pass the ball to catcher Jorge Posada, who swiped a tag on Giambi's leg. Yes, the run only would have tied the game, and the way Mike Mussina was pitching he was very likely to have ended the rally there. And, yes, Giambi might have been safe.
But here's the point: Every run counts against the Yankees in the postseason. Every run is huge.
If you're anywhere near the plate, find it. Grab it. Be the plate. Slide if there's no throw home.
Score like you've never scored before.
All the Yankees need is a sliver of hope, a little glimpse of daylight. Don't give it to them. Let them find it on their own if they're going to find it.
When the A's came out of their element, lost some of their uncanny composure for such a young team and started making mistakes they hadn't really made in months, their demise was imminent. Before Jeter tumbled into the stands for a spectacular exclamation point on the Game 5 victory, the A's had lost their steam.
Their continued struggles with runners in scoring position, three fielding errors -- two inexcusable ones and one tough one -- and the public spat between team leader Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada added up to an open door for the Yankees to finish the job.
All the Diamondbacks have to do is stay within what they've been doing, which is an easier feat for an Arizona team full of thirtysomethings than it was for an A's team full of twentysomethings, no doubt. Just playing sound baseball is the best thing they can do right now.
It's a simple goal the A's lost touch with, especially in Game 5, and a slip from their opponent is all the opportunity the Yankees need.
The Diamondbacks have already taken the pressure off themselves and placed it on the Yankees.
As long as they don't bring it back upon their own shoulders, there should be a bunch of guys in purple dancing around celebrating a World Series title, perhaps even painting such an odd picture upon baseball's hallowed ground of Yankee Stadium.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com.