ANAHEIM -- So they are all "true Yankees." Whatever that connotes, they were Tuesday night, on the postseason side of a year they had spent looking worried and vulnerable. All the troubles and uncertainties -- all the ragged play -- faded into rumor. The bell rang, and the Bronx Bombers responded like rabid Pavlovian dogs. Or like the champions they have been, and intend to be again. "Well, we've been playing like this for two months now," Derek Jeter begged to differ. "We've gone through a long stretch where we had to win every day, and this is no different."
We beg to differ. This wasn't Kansas City in August, or Baltimore in September. These were the Angels, in October, when their routine mistreatment of the Bombers can become exponential. So the Yankees' 4-2 victory in Game 1 of the Division Series, and the manner it was dispensed, was different and large. "This was a game we had to win. That team thinks they can win," said Reggie Jackson, who used to be Mr. October before he became Mr. Special Advisor, nodding in the direction of the Angels' clubhouse. "They think they can beat us. "So you've got to beat them here, and you've got to beat them good, because they believe." So that's what the Yankees did, beat them by playing as good and crisp as they have all year. Crisper than they had any business playing, considering the whirlwind they've ridden the last 48 hours. They floored the gas pedal to score all their runs with two out. They made dazzling defensive plays -- definitely not a trademark of this team -- all over Angel Stadium. They pitched marvelously (starter Mike Mussina) and strategically (the four relievers spotted by manager Joe Torre). The Yankees needed to play well, because so did the Angels in the most competitive of the day's three Division Series openers. The Yankees did the two things they absolutely had to in order to win: Their pitchers kept Chone Figgins off base, and their hitters jumped Bartolo Colon for a 4-0 lead by the second. "That was huge," Jeter said of the two-out rally in the first punctuated by Robinson Cano's bases-clearing double. "Colon is tough, so you know there won't be a lot of scoring."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.