Commentary

The Yankees can pull this off, folks

It looks like a tall order in Texas, but the Bronx Bombers have reason to feel confident

Updated: October 22, 2010, 3:24 AM ET
By Rob Parker | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Your gut tells you that the New York Yankees are going to Texas for the inevitable -- to be eliminated from the American League Championship Series and denied a second straight trip to the World Series.

After all, the Yankees still have a lot of work to do -- even after their 7-2 Game 5 victory over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.

They still have to win the final two games in Arlington in this best-of-seven series to advance. Worse, they'd have to beat the unbeatable Cliff Lee in Game 7 to complete their comeback.

[+] EnlargeDerek Jeter & Phil Hughes
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesPhil Hughes will pitch in the biggest game of his life, by far, on Friday night.

And while the Yankees have just been off in this series almost from the word "go" -- in terms of both hitting and pitching -- they aren't dead, and honestly they have a chance to do the near-impossible.

Yes, the Yankees can win this series.

"We still have a lot of work cut out for ourselves, no doubt," said right fielder Nick Swisher, who hit a solo home run Wednesday. "When your backs are against the wall, you have one of two choices: You can take the punches or throw some punches back.

"We came out, played extremely well. We fought, we battled. That's just good Yankee baseball."

It was something that was missing for three games in a row, somehow. It would be one thing if this wasn't a talented group that just couldn't play at a high level, but that's not the case. The Yankees can play better. That's where the hope comes from for fans, and where the belief comes from amongst the players.

That's why this isn't some pie-in-the-sky dream or empty words coming from Homer Central. In fact, far from it.

The Yankees' chances of pulling off this feat have just as much to do with the Rangers as with themselves. The Rangers -- looking for their first trip to the World Series -- aren't a lock for anything. There's no history there -- no fabric of winning leading you to believe that it's a foregone conclusion. The Rangers, no matter how well they have played up to this point, are more like a you-won't-believe-it-until-you-see-it kind of team than AL champs.

They look poised to make that leap. But in the back of your head, you're still saying, "The Texas Rangers?"

The Rangers showed a bit of that in the first round of the playoffs. They had a 2-0 lead against Tampa Bay and had a hard time closing out the Rays, squandering two straight opportunities at home. They wound up winning the series in five games, but it gave you a glimpse into this team. Nothing is automatic for the Rangers, not even at home.

"They came out and beat us," Rangers third baseman Michael Young said about the Rays. "It wasn't a focus thing or anything like that."

Here in Game 5, the Yankees finally looked focused at the plate and their bats came alive. Yes, they finally broke through, scoring more runs (seven) than they had in the previous three games (five). And the Bronx Bombers showed their firepower, hitting three homers. "Our guys weren't pressing ... even with our backs against the wall, and that was our key to success," said Curtis Granderson, who was 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs.

If the Yankees had nothing left, they would have been eliminated Wednesday night. Don't forget that in Game 1, C.J. Wilson did not allow a run through six innings and Texas had a 5-0 lead. The Yankees wound up coming back against the Rangers' bullpen.

But here the Yankees jumped on Wilson early, with three runs in the second and back-to-back homers in the third to turn the tables and take a 5-0 lead on Texas.

The Yankees will have a shot to do the same thing against Colby Lewis, the Game 2 starter and winner for the Rangers. The Yankees, who lost that game 7-2, are a veteran team and can adjust the second time around.

Let's face it. This season has never been a smooth ride. But to this point, somehow, the Yankees just keep coming through when they have to. "We have the talent to do it in this clubhouse," Marcus Thames said. "No one in here doubts it."

Even against Lee in a Game 7. You just have to believe that Lee can't win every postseason game, and there's no way he can duplicate what he did in Game 3, shutting out the Yankees with ease.

And best of all, the Yankees have Mariano Rivera. In a tight spot like this, you have to have someone to seal the deal at the end. The Yankees do for sure. The Rangers aren't sure they do.

"As I said, we have won games before in a row," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "And the feeling is that -- there's a feeling of confidence and I'm sure there's a feeling of confidence on the other side.

"But you don't get to this point in the season if you're not confident in your club and in yourself."

Clearly, the Yankees have reason to be.

Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.

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