Yankees feeling sunny after trip home

Yanks feeling sunny after trip home

NEW YORK -- Nick Swisher held his index finger and thumb about the size of a quarter apart. The difference of an inch, give or take, and Swisher could have been spraying champagne Thursday night in the Yankees' clubhouse at Angel Stadium.

With the tying run at third base and the potential go-ahead run on second base -- the one that would have set up Yankees vs. Phillies on Wednesday in the Bronx -- Swisher worked the count full before lifting a harmless popup into the air.

A half-inch and the Yankees would have been celebrating. Instead, it's back to New York -- not that anyone is surprised that this ALCS hasn't been a cakewalk.

"Anaheim has a great team," Derek Jeter said. "Coming into this series, all the talk was how they dominated us over the years and how they are going to be a big problem for us. And then we are up 3-1, lose one game and people say, 'Oh, you wasted the opportunity. What's wrong with the Yankees?' But it's a long series. The last I checked, I think we are in pretty good shape."

Indeed, losing two out of three at Angel Stadium is not all bad news for the Yankees, who played their best baseball of '09 at Yankee Stadium and took advantage of cold, raw conditions to secure Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS, outplaying an Angels team that appeared desperately in need of warm blankets and hot cocoa. Blankets weren't needed on Saturday, when Game 6 was postponed -- set to be played on Sunday night at 8:20 ET on FOX.

Nineteen of the 28 teams to hold a 3-2 advantage in the LCS since the advent of the best-of-seven system in '85 have held on to win, and only four teams have blown it at home -- the last example, Steve Bartman's beloved '03 Cubs, to the Marlins.

AL Championship Series
Gm. 1 NYY 4, LAA 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 NYY 4, LAA 3 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 LAA 5, NYY 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 NY 10, LAA 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 LAA 7, NYY 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 6 NYY 5, LAA 2 Wrap Video

As long as the security guards in the Bronx keep their eyes on foul balls, that should be comforting news for a Yankees team that still has great confidence, believing that their missed opportunity in Anaheim was just a momentary stumbling block on the path to their season-long goal.

That assumption can become reality if the Yankees take care of business in their home park behind Game 6 starter Andy Pettitte, their battle-tested playoff veteran and a wily left-hander who has been through this dance more than anyone.

"He's got what, the most postseason starts in history -- what more can you ask for?" pitching coach Dave Eiland said. "You know, you feel good about him. We feel good about where we are at."

Moments after the final out of Game 5 was recorded, Pettitte was headed to a third-floor interview area atop Angel Stadium, sitting behind a podium to discuss a Game 6 he -- as Swisher certainly felt -- would have preferred did not need to be played.

But the Yankees were fooling themselves if they thought that it would be easy to travel out to Anaheim and tidily dispatch an Angels team that plays with arguably just as much heart and passion as they do.

HOME NOT ALWAYS SWEET
Since the ALCS became a best-of-seven series in 1985, seven teams have taken a 3-2 edge into Game 6 with the home-field advantage. Three of those teams won Game 6 to advance to the World Series, two lost Game 6 but then won Game 7, and two teams lost both Games 6 and 7 at home.
Year Led Trailed Games 6 and 7
2008 TB BOS TB lost 6, won 7
2004 NYY BOS NYY lost both
2003 NYY BOS NYY lost 6, won 7
2000 NYY SEA NYY won 6
1998 NYY CLE NYY won 6
1992 TOR OAK TOR won 6
1985 TOR KC. TOR lost both

"I can't say it enough how that's a very good team," Pettitte said. "This was not going to be an easy series. I was saying all along it was going to be a battle, and that's what we've got on our hands. They could have just folded up when we scored those six runs yesterday. But they battled back. That's a sign of a good team, and the sign of a team that we knew we were going to have to play and beat."

And still, despite rainy and cool conditions Friday for a workout in New York, there were metaphorical sunny skies in the forecast.

"We're still up 3-2," Jorge Posada said. "We're going home and that's the beauty of this. Hopefully we can just take it one day at a time. We feel comfortable with Andy on the mound."

As Mark Teixeira said, the fans got their money's worth in the three games at Angel Stadium, a place where Jeter glanced up at the video screen earlier this year and remarked, "Every time that Rally Monkey comes out, they score. I'm not lying."

But the Yankees have a little home-field advantage of their own left in the bank, where all season long, the story has been home runs and New York victories.

There, too, the Bombers are hoping that the paying customers will get every dollar -- and in Swisher's case, perhaps an extra 25 cents -- worth of their baseball experience.

"We want to get this one, especially here in front of our home fans," Swisher said. "We feel comfortable here."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.