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ALCS Game 2: Why a Loss Could Spell Doom for the Yankees

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 16:  Starting pitcher Phil Hughes #65 of the New York Yankees walks back to the dugout after he was taken out of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning against the Texas Rangers in Game Two of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 16, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Brandon PutreContributor IJune 17, 2016

Normally, a visiting team would feel pretty confident bringing a best-of-seven series back home tied 1-1.  They would have beaten one of the opponent's best pitchers, and they would have the chance to wrap up the series at home with all of their fans behind them.

However, this is not a normal situation by any means. The Yankees will head back to the Bronx for Game 3 and face a probable Cy Young winner in Cliff Lee, who almost single-handedly pitched this Rangers team through the ALDS with two stellar starts in which he sported a 1.13 ERA and a nasty 0.69 WHIP.  Lee also rung up 21 batters, tying an MLB record for most strikeouts by a pitcher in a series.

Lee is 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA in the postseason for his career, including two wins over the Yankees in last year's World Series.

Starting for the Yankees will be Andy Pettitte, who is known for coming up big in postseason starts.  Yet big might not be good enough against Lee, who may only need one or two runs to seal the deal.

A loss in Game 3 could be devastating for the Yankees, as they will send A.J. Burnett to the hill for Game 4.  Burnett has been anything but what the Yankees were hoping for since he arrived in New York, sporting a 23-24 overall record in pinstripes. 

Burnett has been up-and-down all season, but mostly down, as he finished the season with six losses in his final 10 starts, ending the season with a 10-15 record and a miserable ERA of 5.26.

The Yankees chose not to use Burnett in the ALDS and instead went with a three-man rotation.  The decision to employ the four-man rotation was made in order to prevent using ace C.C. Sabathia twice in a row on three days rest, but C.C may get the entire offseason to rest if Burnett cannot control his command in Game 4.

Sabathia, who has not been at his best this postseason (7.20 ERA over two starts), will start Game 5, hopefully not with the series on the line. 

Supposing the Yankees enter Game 6 down 3-2, they will have to rely on Phil Hughes, who got roughed up in Game 2, surrendering seven earned runs in only four innings pitched.  Game 7, if the series were to come down to it, would be a rematch of Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte.

Needless to say, it is going to be a tough road to the World Series if the Yankees cannot take both games from Texas this weekend. The Yankee bats are going to have to do a lot of talking if they want to chase Lee out of the game early and then support the struggling Burnett in the next game.

However, it would be naive to count the Yankees out after only two games, especially in a sport where anything can happen.  After all, the Yankees did get to Cliff Lee in Game 5 of the World Series last fall, scoring five runs in seven innings.

Perhaps Girardi will reconsider his decision to use Burnett in anything other than long relief in this series, especially after A.J. hit two batters in a wild simulation game yesterday.  If not, this club could see its season end slightly sooner than expected.

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