It was only a couple weeks ago when many experts had the New York Yankees as a lock to make it to the World Series and defend their title. Unfortunately, for the Yankee faithful, no one told the Texas Rangers.
The Rangers have certainly not been intimidated by the Yankees bloated payroll and 27 World Series titles. They haven't been phased by their previous nine losses in ten postseason games to the Yankees before this season. The 2010 Texas Rangers are not your daddy's Texas Rangers.
Cliff Lee and the Texas Rangers handed the Yankees their worst home loss in postseason history, and for the boys in pinstripes, that includes an incredible amount of games. Even with Andy Pettitte, the most prolific winner in postseason history, the Yankees couldn't overcome the dominance of Lee.
After tonight's victory, Cliff Lee became the most successful pitcher in postseason history in terms of earned run average. With an ERA of 1.26 and a 7-0 career postseason record, Lee has placed himself among the all-time greats in history.
After managing only two hits in nine innings and striking out an incredible 15 times, the Yankees are certainly lagging in confidence. In a game as fickle as baseball, mental composure can be nearly as important as physical ability. After three games, New York is certainly lacking in confidence.
With the exception of one strong inning in game one where the Yankees put up five runs in the eighth inning, the Rangers' pitching staff has held the powerful New York lineup in check. After scoring six runs in their come from behind victory in game one, the Yankees have only scored two runs in games two and three. In fact, with the exception of that eighth inning of game one, the Yankees have managed only three runs in 26 innings.
Sure, the Yankees are only down 2-1 going into game four in New York, but how confident can they be with a struggling A.J. Burnett scheduled to be going to the mound against a formidable Texas lineup and the Yankees' stagnant offense?
The Yankees' best chance would lie with a shakeup in the scheduled rotation. Although C.C. Sabathia was less than stellar in his game one outing, he gives New York their best chance of victory. Also, that would leave him open for the possibility of a game seven start on short rest.
Game four will ultimately prove to be the most important game of the season for the 2010 New York Yankees. With a win, they can even the series at two games apiece. With a loss, the Rangers go up 3-1 forcing a minimum of seven games and the possible return of Cliff Lee.
When discussing the New York Yankees, it's never too late to count them out. But if there's any season where the odds are significantly against them, this is it.
It's time for the Yankees to channel the spirit of George Steinbrenner. The Yankees have to go out and turn the momentum in a game four victory, or their season is all but finished.