Yanks embracing backs-to-the-wall mentality

Yanks embracing backs-to-the-wall mentality

NEW YORK -- The temperature at Yankee Stadium felt more like late August than October on Saturday as the American League Division Series presented by Doosan relocated to the Bronx. The temperature around the Yankees, by contrast, had more of an autumn urgency, trying to hold back the chill of the offseason.

With a 2-0 deficit to the Indians, the Yankees must win Game 3 tonight to keep their season going, no matter what the summerlike weather suggests. A loss closes their title quest until next spring.

Game Date Results Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 5 CLE 4, NYY 0 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 6 CLE 9, NYY 8 (13) Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 8 NYY 1, CLE 0 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 9 NYY 7, CLE 3 Watch
Gm 5 Oct. 11 NYY 5, CLE 2 Watch

"We've had our backs, each other's backs, all year long," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said on Saturday. "We'll continue to have it, and we'll go out and play hard tomorrow and go out and try to win one game."

The Yankees, needing to win three straight against Cleveland, aren't in totally uncharted territory. Of the 56 times a team has fallen behind 0-2 in a five-game Division Series, a club has rallied to win seven times, most recently by the Blue Jays over the Rangers just two Octobers ago. The Yanks are one of those seven, having done so against the Athletics in 2001.

Girardi doesn't want to look at it as three straight, just one for now, although he isn't shying away from the backs-to-the-wall mentality.

"I don't think that's always the worst mentality to have," Girardi said. "I think sometimes that can be a good mentality to have. So we will preach to them, 'Just win one game.' Win one game tomorrow, and let's see where we're at and we'll go from there."

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The buzz in Cleveland after the Indians' 9-8 comeback victory in 13 innings on Friday night carried to New York, as these things do, on social media. The Indians snared a five-run lead from the Yankees' grasp with help from a string of events -- the early lifting of starter CC Sabathia, a non-reviewed hit by pitch and a grand slam by Francisco Lindor -- in the sixth inning for which Girardi has been questioned.

"I screwed up, and it's hard," Girardi said. "It's a hard day for me. But I got to move forward, and we'll be ready to go tomorrow."

An Instagram comment from a frustrated fan critiquing Girardi reportedly garnered a like from Aroldis Chapman's account. On Saturday, according to a Newsday report, Chapman apologized to Girardi, saying he was unaware that he had hit like on the tweet. Such is the busy intersection of social media in New York and October among passionate Yankees fans.

Girardi said he "checked the temperature" of his team after the loss.

"It's a tough loss. It's a tough situation. It really is," Girardi said. "We had an 8-3 lead and we weren't able to hold it, and it's frustrating."

Girardi on not challenging

Girardi also believes the frustration is temporary.

"I believe our team will be ready to go tomorrow," Girardi said Saturday. "And that's who this team is."

His starting pitcher for Game 3 knows how the urgency of postseason elimination can motivate. Masahiro Tanaka started the Yankees' AL Wild Card Game two years ago at Yankee Stadium, taking the loss despite just two runs over five innings against the Astros. Four Houston hurlers combined for a three-hit shutout.

"I feel like I've learned from that actual game from 2015," Tanaka said. "Not just that, but some of the big games that I needed to pitch that I had the opportunity to pitch this season and, also, just by observing the games, these postseason games, you get a sense of what needs to be done. So, yes, I'm pretty prepared to go into the game."

As for being prepared for the pressure, Tanaka said, "Obviously, yes, there is pressure, but that can't get me away from what I need to do on the mound."

Jason Beck has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.