There is no need to sugarcoat the Yankees’ chances of coming back in this series. They’re down three games to one and every obstacle is stacked against them. The offense hasn’t hit all series. Even before Cliff Lee looms in a potential Game 7, the Yankees have to face two pitchers against whom they did not fare well in Games 1 and 2. They really have only two factors working in their favor. First, that the series isn’t over until Texas wins one more game. Second, that they have their ace on the mound this afternoon.
This scenario actually runs parallel to a recent ALCS. We tend to remember 2007 because of midges, but right now we should remember it because the team’s biggest rival made a comeback after being down three games to one. I’m sure everyone in Boston was feeling down heading into Game 5, with the team just one loss away from elimination. But they came back. The Yanks can do the same.
The similarities start right off the bat. While the Red Sox didn’t make a miraculous Game 1 comeback, they did set the tone by winning the game handily. But the very next day the Indians came back and romped the Sox, scoring 13 runs in a quite demoralizing fashion. Curt Schilling started and allowed five runs in 4.2 innings, similar to what Phil Hughes did on Saturday. The bullpen held down the Indians while the game went into extra innings. It was there that Eric Gagne, Javier Lopez, and Jon Lester combined to allow seven runs in the top of the 11th, ensuring a Cleveland victory and an even series.
Game 3 held a few parallels, though Jake Westbrook is no Cliff Lee (Lee had actually been left off the Indians’ playoff roster that year). The Indians scored two in the second and then two again in the fifth, rendering the Red Sox two seventh inning runs ultimately meaningless. Boston then turned to Tim Wakefield, the worst of their starters, instead of bringing back Josh Beckett on short rest. The Indians rallied for seven in the fifth, which was enough to close a 7-3 victory. That’s when things looked bleak for Boston.
It was in Game 5 that the Red Sox mounted their comeback. They sent their ace to the hill* and after allowing a run in the first he went on to pitch seven innings of shutout ball, handing the ball directly to Jonathan Papelbon to close it out, even though the Sox had a six-run lead at the time. The series then went back to Boston, where the home team exploded for 10 runs in three innings in Game 6. They then wrapped the series the next day, scoring six runs in the eighth to turn a 5-2 game into an 11-2 series clincher.
*His opponent: CC Sabathia.
The Yankees aren’t necessarily destined to repeat the Red Sox comeback, but the parallels are clear. Boston was the better team that year, though that didn’t appear to be the case through the series’ first four games. The Indians had outplayed them after Game 1, and the situation was dire indeed. But the Red Sox rallied behind their ace and picked up a Game 5 victory. They headed home, though, while the Yanks’ best case scenario is heading to Texas. Still, their chances are as good as the Sox’s were that year. It’s understandable that many people want to count them out now. But all we have to do is turn to a famous Yankee for a quote to debunk that.