Via Joel Sherman -
Brian Cashman insisted it was “not a guarantee,” yet the Yankees general manager repeated several times this morning that “I expect to win the next two games” and advance to the ALCS.
The Yankees face elimination Tuesday night with Detroit leading this best-of-five Division Series two-games-to-one. But, of all things, the loss that put the Yankees on the brink actually has Cashman encouraged about the abilities and mental makeup of his squad.
“(Justin) Verlander had Nolan Ryan stuff and we figured out a way to score four runs and be in that game,” Cashman told The Post by phone. “This team is tough. Verlander was amazing last night and what we did against him was amazing, too. I know we lost, but I think we have a mentally tough team. I know it is not a good spot to be down two-to-one, but this team is tougher than people think. I believe in our guys. It is not a good spot, but I believe we will win the next two games.”
Verlander, after the first inning of Game 3, locked in with all four of his pitches, particularly bedeviling the Yankees with a fastball in the 96-101 mph range and with a curveball that was buckling knees one hitter after another. Yet Brett Gardner’s two-run double in the seventh tied the score before Rafael Soriano served up a game-deciding homer to Delmon Young in the bottom of the inning in what became a 5-4 Detroit triumph.
“It was spectacular what we did against Verlander,” Cashman said. “It is an indicator that we are not going away. That we are going to be tough to put down – and I don’t expect us to be put down.”
However, to survive, the Yankees have to first win in Detroit on Tuesday night with A.J. Burnett simply to get back to The Bronx for a decisive game Thursday.
“It’s A.J. and everybody else,” Cashman said, speaking of the bullpen being on instant alert for Game 4. “If everything is working for him, (Burnett) will be tough on the Tigers. If not, I will expect Phil Hughes (to relieve) and be on. Or the next guy.”
I sincerely believe, if the Yankees can get to Game 5, they have a decent shot at reaching the ALCS. But, I don’t share Cashman’s “can do” attitude about Game 4. Not with Burnett starting, and Hughes next in line, and with A-Rod, Teixeira and Swisher not hitting. I can see this one snowballing quickly and the Yankees finding themselves in a hole that the hitters cannot escape from…like Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS…or Game 4 of the 2006 ALDS…or Game 6 of the 2010 ALCS…or Game 4 of the 2002 ALDS. (Which, by the way, all happened on Cashman’s watch.)