PHOENIX -- Bad and bleak is not the situation the Yankees are looking at right now, even as they head home trailing this World Series 2-0. Bad and bleak is trying to hit the stuff Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson fired at the three-time defending World Champions in the first two games.
|A well-rested Roger Clemens is due for a vintage effort in this postseason.
What happened in Games 1 and 2 was a lot simpler than some of the exaggerated forecasts you will read and hear about the next couple of days.
What's the big deal? The Diamondbacks held serve in their ballpark with their top two pitchers -- two of the best in the game -- on the mound. These were the games they were supposed to win.
The Big Unit was a big menace in Sunday night's 4-0 shutout, just as many figured he would be.
The way the Yankees look at it, it's nothing Roger Clemens and the raucous ambiance of Yankee Stadium can't remedy. You know, the same Clemens who will share space with the Big Unit in Cooperstown some day. The same Yankee Stadium that featured shriekingly high decibel levels for the final two games of the ALCS against the Mariners.
Now it's the Yankees' turn to hold serve in their home park. Following Clemens will be Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, who has an 8-2 record in the playoffs to his credit.
In other words, just a word of warning not to buy into all the "Champs on the ropes" hyperbole you will hear until the first pitch is thrown in Game 3.
This thing is far from over, and the Yankees know it.
"In our situation, we've been there before," Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez said. "We know how long a series can be and how tough it is to win four games. There's a long way to go."
The Oakland Athletics will be the first to vouch for that. Remember, it was three short weeks ago they had the Yankees in a 2-0 hole. And that was a best-of-five series in which they faced a blossoming ace -- Barry Zito -- in Game 3, on the road.
So it was that the Yankees passed that test with a riveting 1-0 victory, and two subsequent wins to advance to the ALCS.
"We already did it once this year," said Yankees reliever Mike Stanton. "Nothing to say we can't do it again. We have the ability, we have the talent. You don't like to do that, to dig a hole like this. But we can still climb out of it."
Of course they can. You need resolve -- and a lot of it -- to win four World Series in five years.
The Yankees didn't look worried as they prepared to fly home. They didn't even look flustered, as they certainly had the right to be considering the lasers Johnson was throwing at them.
Yes, Schilling and Johnson will re-appear in this series. The Yankees aren't naive enough to ignore that truth. But they are focused enough not to worry about it either.
"We're looking at Game 3," Martinez said. "That's the biggest game of the series for us. If you start looking ahead beyond that, you're in trouble."
The Yankees aren't in trouble. At least not yet.
"If you don't feel you can beat someone, you might as well go home," said star shortstop Derek Jeter, who is in a 2-for-24 slump. "The only thing you can do is win."
That's something nobody expected the Yankees would do after John Smoltz and Greg Maddux stymied them the first two games of the 1996 World Series every bit as thoroughly as Schilling and Johnson did in these two.
"In '96, Atlanta shut us down the first two games and we climbed out of that," Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. "We just have to try to do what we did back then. The bottom line is it's the first to win four and nobody has four yet. You don't get a trophy for winning two."
What the Yankees need now is very simply, the best Clemens -- an unprecedented five-time Cy Young award winner -- has to offer. Then they'll take it from there.
"We've got Roger Clemens and El Duque in Games 3 and 4," said Cashman. "The Diamondbacks have great pitching, but that's where our bread and butter is too. Any time those guys take the mound, we feel good."
Of course, the Yankee bats will have to escape the fog Schilling and Johnson put them in, but that isn't all that daunting a task with Brian (4-9, 5.20 ERA) taking the hill for Arizona.
"Roger is the key," Yankees Manager Joe Torre said. "We need to get him a lead and he needs to go out and dominate like these two guys have."
Clemens is due for a vintage effort in this postseason. A sore hamstring has rendered him from the 20-game winner he was during the regular season to a slightly above average pitcher in these playoffs. But he will go out there with eight days rest Tuesday night, giving reason to think his arm will be strong enough for the Yankees to ride.
In the aftermath of Game 2, Cashman painted an image that can't be all that inviting for the D-Backs.
"Roger is tucked away in bed right now probably gritting his teeth and chomping at the bit to pitch Game 3."
Clemens was sent back to New York earlier on Sunday, sparing him the helplessness of watching Johnson stymie his hitters.
As Clemens got some shut-eye, the Yankees were asked to make comparisons to their past revivals. The one against the A's earlier this month, and even more frequently, the one against the Braves five years ago.
"It's two different teams and two different years," said Jeter.
But one very similar predicament. One the Yankees are familiar enough with. And one they are more than equipped to handle.
Ian Browne is a columnist for MLB.com.