"We've been in a hole all year, and we know it's not going to be easy," Alex Rodriguez said. "Now we get to go home and take it one game at a time."
After Mariano Rivera weaved through two innings, spitting bugs from his mouth and clearing them from his nostrils, the Yankees thought they might be able to hold off the Tribe long enough to push one more run across and even the series.
But the winning hit came off Luis Vizcaino, and instead, the Yankees can do little but cross their fingers for better results in the Bronx, their backs against the wall and looking to Roger Clemens to stave off what could very well be a third consecutive ALDS exit.
As if facing Fausto Carmona in the middle of an electric nine-inning performance wasn't enough, Andy Pettitte's gritty effort was followed by an undoing that began with the help of -- of all things -- thick swarms of midges, an insect that resembles a flying ant.
"Just when you think you've seen it all," Derek Jeter said. "I guess that's home-field advantage for them -- just let the bugs out. It worked. It was annoying. They were all flying around, and I think it was worse on the pitcher's mound."
Rookie Joba Chamberlain needed just five pitches to clean up Pettitte's two-on, one-out jam in the seventh, but fighting off distractions in the eighth, Chamberlain threw two wild pitches that allowed Grady Sizemore to slide home with the tying run, toppling Chamberlain and allowing a sellout Jacobs Field crowd of 44,732 to erupt into a fit of towel-waving glee.
"They bugged me, but you've got to deal with it," Chamberlain said. "I'll never make an excuse for myself. I let my guys down and that's the bottom line."
The blown save reduced Pettitte's no-run, seven-hit performance to a no-decision. He clearly deserved better, offering the Yankees precisely the strength they coveted -- and lacked -- out of Chien-Ming Wang in the series opener.
Pettitte walked a tightrope in every inning and continually escaped, providing the kind of quality 6 1/3-inning effort that prompted New York to pursue him for a second go-round in pinstripes.
"There's no doubt it hurts," said Pettitte. "We're going home and we need to win two games at home to come back here. We need to win three ballgames. That's the way I look at it. We've done it before and we'll need to do it again if we want to move on here."
The leadoff batter reached base in four of the first five frames against Pettitte, who walked two and struck out five. Yet Pettitte survived perhaps his toughest test in the sixth inning, spotting Sizemore at third base after a leadoff triple shot past Doug Mientkiewicz and rattled in the right-field corner.
Unrattled, Pettitte got Asdrubal Cabrera to tap back to the mound weakly, then struck out both Hafner and Martinez swinging to end the inning. After Martinez waved at the final offering, Pettitte spun around on the mound and pumped his left fist twice, yelling "Yeah! Yeah!" toward Clemens and the Yankees' bench.
"I'll be damned if it almost wasn't good enough," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
They needed every crucial out, with Carmona holding New York to three hits, two walks and striking out five. Rivera came on to hold the Indians scoreless in the ninth and 10th innings, including striking out Peralta to leave the bases loaded in the 10th, before Vizcaino got in quick trouble with a hit and a walk to open the pivotal 11th.
"It was one of those games where it seemed like it would never end," Jeter said.
Melky Cabrera put the Yankees on the board in the third inning when he reached Carmona for his first postseason home run, a 386-foot shot to right. The solo shot came one half inning after Cabrera came up firing on a Kenny Lofton single to center, cutting down Jhonny Peralta on a one-hop story with plenty of time to spare on a strong throw to home plate, ending the bottom of the Cleveland second.
"He's not fun to face," Jeter said of Carmona. "'Leche' hit that big home run and that's pretty much it. He pitched well. When he's pitching like that, I don't see too many teams hitting him."
The Yankees had one late chance to regain the lead as Carmona put the finishing touches on his masterpiece. Bobby Abreu legged out an infield single and stole second while Rodriguez worked a nine-pitch at-bat, fouling off four, before striking out.
"It's a combination of being a little impatient and Carmona having pretty good stuff," Rodriguez said. "I thought that, if I stuck around long enough in that ninth-inning at-bat, he would make a mistake."
Instead, Rodriguez completed a 0-for-4, three-strikeout night that dropped the probable AL MVP to 1-for-20 (.050) in postseason play since the beginning of last year's ALDS. Then again, few other Yankees have been hitting -- New York has just eight hits in 20 innings over Games 1 and 2 -- a major reason why the flight home figures to be a glum one.
"With three hits tonight, you can't really put it on A-Rod," Torre said. "We just really didn't get anything going. Normally we're very good at manufacturing stuff. We just were shut down."