Commentary

Cliff Lee not the only issue for Yankees

The Rangers' ace will be a key factor in the ALCS moving forward, but not the only one

Updated: October 18, 2010, 1:41 PM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- The deadlocked ALCS is now a best-of-five series and it is in the exact position the New York Yankees feared.

Texas Rangers ace Cliff Lee is getting the ball in what is essentially Game 1 of the series. If the Yankees don't take advantage of their home field over the next three games, then Lee will have a good chance to pitch twice.

While Lee is firmly on the marquee for this series, he is not the only factor.

Here are four other issues the Yankees will have to overcome to win the ALCS:

1. The "buy one base, get one free" sale must stop

In Game 2, the only thing Elvis Andrus didn't steal from Jorge Posada was his best friend, Derek Jeter.

[+] EnlargeJorge Posada
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesJorge Posada has struggled throwing runners out this postseason.
Not being able to prevent stolen bases is a major issue for the Yankees. Andy Pettitte could minimize that some in Game 3, but, opposed by Lee, Posada also must block balls better. The Yankees can't continually give up an extra 90 feet.

When A.J. Burnett is on the mound, Francisco Cervelli will catch. The duo was awful at throwing out runners during the regular season.

The Rangers were one of the best teams in baseball at taking extra bases all year. There is every reason to believe they will continue to be aggressive. It could be the difference in the series.

2. If they don't start they will be finished

When the Yankees were in their BCC (before CC Sabathia) era, they were championship-less for eight years largely because they pitched like they have in the first two games of the ALCS. That is how seasons end early.

Burnett has put extra pressure on the big three (Sabathia, Pettitte and Phil Hughes) because they have to overcome the weak link.

Pettitte thought the long layoff hurt Sabathia and Hughes. Each lasted just four innings in Texas over the weekend.

Pettitte will have a longer break than both Sabathia and Hughes. By pushing Pettitte back to Game 3, Yankees manager Joe Girardi has given Pettitte 10 days between starts.

3. It is money time for A-Rod and Tex

Since Robinson Cano looks so good at the plate, ask yourself this question: If you were Rangers manager Ron Washington, would you rather face Cano in a big spot or the two batters who precede him in the order? It is an interesting question, no doubt.

Any way you look at it, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have contacts for hundreds of millions of dollars for these moments.

They were 2-for-18 in the first two games. A-Rod had both hits, including the big two-run single in the eighth inning of Game 1. He also scored the winning run.

Still, the Rangers have dominated the Yankees for 17 of the 18 innings of this series. Without the eighth inning of Game 1, the Yankees have been outscored 12-3. They have been out-hit (.302 to .197).

[+] EnlargeJoe Girardi
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireCan Joe Girardi maintain his calm demeanor throughout the postseason?
You can't take Saturday's eighth away from the Yankees, but you also can't deny that the Rangers have dominated every other inning.

4. Can this Joe be cool?

Girardi has won 15 of his 20 playoff games. The closest thing he has come to managing a playoff game with tension was Game 2 of the 2009 World Series. Burnett won that game and the Yankees never looked back.

The thing that former manager Joe Torre would bring to hot situations was cool. Girardi is wound as tight as the laces on a baseball.

The tension could pervade the clubhouse. Of course, the Yankees have such a veteran, professional team that it might not matter.

That is why it is hard to quantify how much of an impact Girardi has had on his 15-5 postseason record.

It is also one of the reasons the Yankees -- while they value Girardi -- don't think he is irreplaceable and have no plans to get in a bidding war if the Chicago Cubs potentially offer huge money to Girardi.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

More from ESPNNewYork.com »

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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