In describing yesterday’s Game 5 victory, Cliff Corcoran of Pinstriped Bible makes a connection to the past:
Perhaps its because, after being dominated by the Rangers for four games, a single win, even a lop-sided one such as the 7-2 Game Five, doesn’t carry enough weight to restore balance to the series. Whatever it is, Game Five felt like a repeat of Game Three of the 2007 Division Series against the Indians, a face-saving but empty victory that did little other than postpone the inevitable series loss suffered in the following game.
That someone would compare this situation to 2007 was inevitable; it was not only the last time the Yankees lost a playoff series, but it’s the last time they faced an elimination game in the playoffs before yesterday. It’s the freshest, most vivid instance that we can recall, and so it weighs on our minds more heavily than instances from the more distant past. Not that there are many better comparable situations in the recent past. The last time the Yankees were down 3-1 or worse in a seven-game series was in 1976.
That’s not to say that we can’t find certain parallels to the 2007 team. Both squads had question marks on the pitching staff. The 2007 team had Chien-Ming Wang as its ace, and while he had a good regular season he bombed in the playoffs. CC Sabathia wasn’t quite that bad in the ALCS, and he actually overcame some control and stuff issues in Game 5, whereas Wang couldn’t find himself at all in 2007’s elimination game. Sabathia also performed far better than Roger Clemens, who pitched the first elimination game of 2007. You might remember that as the day Phil Hughes became a man.
Speaking of Hughes, he takes Wang’s part in this parallel story, since he pitches the second elimination game. It’s tough to make a comparison, because it’s impossible to eliminate hindsight from the equation. Did I feel confident in Wang coming back on three days’ rest to pitch Game 4 in that series? I believe I did at the time. And I believe that the confidence didn’t so much wane in the early goings as it did completely die. With Hughes the situation is a bit different. He’s not coming back on short rest because the Yankees have no one else; rather, he’s coming back on an extra day’s rest.
Still, I’m not convinced of the parallels between the 2007 Yankees and the 2010 Yankees. As I wrote yesterday, I see more parallels between the 2007 Red Sox and the 2010 Yankees. The 07 Sox, you’ll remember, were on top of the division all season. On September 3 they were 83-55, seven games up on the Yanks. They ended 96-66, just two games up on the Yanks after letting them get to within a game and a half. They then swept Anaheim in the ALDS before going down 3-1, in the same manner as the 2010 Yanks, in the ALCS. They brought in their ace, Josh Beckett, for Game 5, and ended up winning the next three games.
When making comparisons, it’s easy to look to the team’s own past. But the 2010 Yankees are as different from the 2007 Yankees as they are from the 2007 Red Sox. There might be some familiar names, but their games have changed since then. Given that the 2010 Yankees romped through the first round, where the 2007 Yankees faltered, I’m more drawn to the 2007 Sox comparison. It doesn’t hurt that the ending was a bit happier.