The Yankees have been here before, and they've survived.
Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada fell into a hole every bit as deep as this one back in 2001, anchoring the Yankees straight to a 2-0 deficit in that American League Division Series. Mariano Rivera was there, too, sitting helplessly without a save opportunity against the Athletics. And starters Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina were all present, watching as the Yankees came back from that deficit to beat the A's and ultimately advance to the World Series.
"That is the first thing that we looked to [Friday] night in the clubhouse, and the first thing that goes through your mind is, you know, we've done this," Pettitte said. "We can do this. We can pull this off."
Pettitte lost Game 2 of that series, and he didn't get another chance. But the Yankees did, thanks in large part to Derek Jeter's now-fabled flip play in Game 3. With his team leading, 1-0, and Jeremy Giambi chugging home on a potential game-tying hit, Jeter raced across the diamond and grabbed Shane Spencer's errant relay throw, then shoveled it home for Posada to apply the tag and preserve the lead.
The Yankees went on to win three straight games and come within outs of winning their fourth consecutive World Series.
And that's where so much of Pettitte's value finds its roots. He's a link to those days, at a time when the Yankees very much need to draw on any optimism they can.
Pettitte -- like Jeter, like Posada, like Rivera -- has seen firsthand that impossible situations don't always have to be just that.
"We've done it before," Pettitte said, "so I feel like we can do it. My mind will not allow me to go there and say that we're not going to pull this series off."
Do the shuffle: Yankees manager Joe Torre said he has given thought to shaking up his lineup for Game 3, though he's "not sure where." He noted only Jason Giambi as a possibility to crack a starting nine that remained unchanged over the first two games.
On paper, Torre seemingly can't go wrong. Giambi owns a .429 lifetime average off Cleveland starter Jake Westbrook and a .500 mark off Indians pitching this season. And Hideki Matsui, who had been starting at designated hitter thanks to his sore right knee, holds a .455 average off Westbrook.
If Matsui is not well enough to play the field, Torre would have to forgo Doug Mientkiewicz's defense and start Giambi at first base, which he hasn't played in more than two weeks, or he could elect to simply sit Matsui and start Giambi at DH.
"I'm just thinking about getting his bat in there, and the fact of what he brings to the table," Torre said of Giambi. "Just because he hasn't played doesn't mean we necessarily ignore what he can do for us."
Job security: Should the Yankees lose this series to the Indians, there's little doubt that Torre -- again -- will take some heat. His contract is up after this season, and there's plenty of uncertainty -- again -- as to whether he'll be asked back or not.
And that could have a direct effect on the rest of the Yankees, as well.
Pettitte, for one, has a $16 million player option on his contract for next season, and he made it clear on Saturday that Torre's job status would have an influence on his own situation.
"That would definitely be something that would factor into it," Pettitte said.
Bug eyed: Clemens spoke out against the decision to play through the swarms of insects that descended on Jacobs Field on Friday night, and he said that had it been his choice, events might have unfolded differently.
"It's hard enough for our young kids to go out there and concentrate in that situation to have something like that happen," Clemens said. "I would have probably pulled us off the field. If you got to see it up close on TV, which I happened to see [for] half-inning on the television, you could really see how annoying it was, and you had to really heighten your concentration through something like that."
Concentrated or not, Joba Chamberlain threw more than half of his pitches for balls while bugs swarmed around him, and he allowed the tying run to score on one of his two wild pitches.
Be a part of the ALDS Mailbag
|Who's going to win this series? Who's the best player? Why'd the manager make that move? If game stories and features aren't enough for you and you want more, e-mail MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom at email@example.com. After the game, before it, even while the action is going on. Send in your question (make sure the subject line contains ALDS Mailbag), and Bloom will answer selected queries in a mailbag right here on MLB.com.|
"It's easy to say now because it only lasted about 40 minutes," Clemens said. "But if you're in the dugout or watching as a fan there at the game, you really didn't really see. I don't know how much you all saw. I don't watch replays or any of this stuff, but I did see it on TV in close-ups of the guys, and it was incredible. Like I said, it was hard enough."
All hands on deck: With the Yankees facing an elimination game on Sunday, Torre said he would consider using any pitcher other than Chien-Ming Wang, who threw a regular bullpen session on Saturday.
Torre specifically mentioned Phil Hughes and Mike Mussina as possibilities to provide long relief. Should Mussina pitch, that would knock him out of the equation for Monday's Game 4 -- should there be a Game 4 -- and all but force the Yankees to start Wang Monday on short rest.
The Good Sheppard: General manager Brian Cashman gave his regards to public-address announcer Bob Sheppard, who will miss his first playoff game since 1951 with the bronchial infection that also sidelined him for the last seven home games of the regular season.
The Yankees all signed an oversized "get well" card last week and sent it to Sheppard's house. They hope he'll be healthy enough to return, should the Yankees advance beyond the ALDS.
"We're hoping to see him sooner than later," Cashman said. "But he means a great deal to this place and this franchise -- a special individual. One of the best people I've ever met, and we'll miss him."
Bombers bits: The Yankees didn't take their scheduled batting practice on Saturday, but they will hit before Sunday's Game 3. "We just decided to bag it for today," Torre said. "We just have to go out and win a game." ... Pettitte said he would be ready to pitch Game 5 on regular rest, which would likely happen only if Wang started Game 4. "I told them I'd pitch whenever they want me to pitch," Pettitte said. ... Melky Cabrera's home run on Friday night was the first postseason hit of his career. He's now 1-for-11 in the playoffs.
Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.