Commentary

Yanks need to show killer instinct

Bombers can set themselves up for next round by ending ALDS in Game 3

Updated: October 9, 2010, 3:32 PM ET
By Rob Parker | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees have answered a lot of postseason questions in the first two games of the American League Division Series.

But they still need to answer the biggest: Do they have a killer instinct?

And the way they answer it Saturday night in Game 3 against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium could play a big role in whether they have a good shot of repeating as World Series champions.

"It wouldn't be fun if we didn't have to answer those questions," said designated hitter Marcus Thames, who probably will be in the starting lineup against Twins' lefty Brian Duensing. "The guys in the clubhouse know what we have.

"We believe in each other, pull for each other. That's what it's going to take -- us."

The Yankees have to put the Twins out of their misery now and move on. There's no sense for the biggest cat in baseball to continue to play with a dead mouse.

In no way is that disrespectful to the Twins, who trail the best-of-five series 2-0. It's just that the Yankees are that much better, so much so they need not put any more time and effort into a situation simply not worth the trouble.

That's why there should be a sense of urgency in Da Bronx. The Yankees should be ready to play as if they are going to be eliminated. This is not the time to relax, sit back and feel like there's nothing to be concerned about.

Guess again.

Hate to break the news to you, but it's not impossible to win three games in a row. The Twins are a good team, especially when they are not playing the Yankees in the postseason.

Plus, there's a law of averages that will eventually even out. The Yankees shouldn't be interested in cracking open a door they might not be able to close.

The Yankees' numbers are so one-sided against Minnesota that they are scary. At some point, the Twins -- who have lost a major-league record 11 consecutive Division Series games -- have to win a playoff game. The Yankees have beaten the Twins in eight consecutive postseason games. In all eight, the Twins scored first and the Yankees had to come from behind to win.

"The fact that any team can win three games -- three-game winning streaks aren't difficult and you don't want to be on the other side of that," said centerfielder Curtis Granderson, who is batting .500 with three RBI in the series. "That's why you want to take care of business as soon as possible and advance ourselves without looking too forward."

Manager Joe Girardi is smart. He's not going to tell his team they have to win or else the sky will start falling. His focus is always about winning the game in front of you. "The important thing is we go out and play good baseball," Girardi said. "We have to pitch, we have to play defense and we have to have timely hitting. Then you see what happens as an end result.

"I look at it as one game. You have to go out and try to win a game on Saturday."

Best of all, it is set up perfectly. The Yankees don't need Phil Hughes to pitch out of his mind to keep them from falling behind in the series. Nope. Veteran Andy Pettitte took all the pressure off the young starter with a gem on Thursday night in Minneapolis, giving the Bronx Bombers a commanding lead in the series.

All Hughes has to do is give the Yankees a solid six innings at home and the bullpen can take over from there and move the Yankees into the next round. Hughes pitched in tougher spots last season out of the bullpen. It is experience that he should be able to draw from.

There's also an importance about sweeping this series. CC Sabathia, who won Game 1 with an OK outing Wednesday night, could be set up to pitch Games 1, 4 and 7 in the ALCS. That's a huge advantage for the Yankees if they can have their ace set to throw three times in a best-of-seven series.

If the Yankees don't win, Sabathia would pitch Game 4 on Sunday night, limiting him to just two starts at the most in the next round.

Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.

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