You could use the gritting term that keeps coming up this offseason, playing with house money, to describe the entire 2012 season. Despite finishing as the #1 seed, the Yankees faced countless slumps and injuries that destroyed this team in August and September. There were some miraculous moments in the last week of baseball that helped them make that final push for the AL East crown, but it wasn’t until the last day of baseball that they clinched the division lead. The same thing happened in the ALDS games, when it felt like the slumping Yankee bats only came alive when they were down to their last few at bats. That ALDS series also came down to the fifth and final game of set, and now we’re left hoping that the ALCS will too.
But before we get into what it’ll take to get there, Yankee fans should appreciate the team they have, and appreciate the fact that they’re watching the top American League seed play baseball in October. The boo’s at home games would indicate that they don’t, but going down 3 losses to none can be a humbling experience. Now, I don’t expect the Yankees to win the ALCS at this point, not down 3-0, not down 3-1, and not down 3-2. It’s going to take three straight wins to get back into a position where they’ll be a favorite again, which leaves them largely written off. Even their biggest fan thinks it’s all over, and with that, the fan base has lost further expectations.
As I stated above, playing in the sorts of situations where this team has to win, has proven to bring the best out of this team. It feels like almost every Yankee rally in the playoffs has come in the final inning of a game. The team seems to thrive in these sorts of environments, but perhaps it’s a certain veteran ease they have from years of playoff experience. Combine a loss of expectations with veteran fortitude, and perhaps we have something brewing. I’m more of an analytic person, so speculate what you will. For now, here is how the two teams would match up in the rest of this series.
Game 7: LHP C.C. Sabathia vs. RHP Justin Verlander
Obviously the pitching for both teams has been spectacular, so what it’ll take is a breakout from Yankee hitters, which may or may not have started in the 9th inning last night. With that, AccuScore currently gives the Yankees a 7% chance of winning the ALCS, which suggests that there’s a slightly greater than 50% chance of winning each of the next 4 games individually. In this case, if the Yankees win tonight, the chances move from 7% to 13%, and a win tomorrow boosts them to around 25%. A win after that evens out the series, and probably puts the Yankees as a slight favorite.
It’s a long shot, but that seems to be the position that this team loves. For now we can just appreciate how far this run got.
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