Talking about the Phillies this morning is fairly easy. The winners of Game One have won 11 of the last 12 World Series. The Phillies are in great shape, and, as stated in my preview, they have the best starting pitcher in the Series. The Yankees, in contrast, have questions to answer. How do they respond to dropping the first game? Let me give two brief examples from Yankees history to illustrate how they could respond to a Game One loss.
In 1963, the Yankees were the two-time defending champions and facing the underdog Dodgers. In Game One, Sandy Koufax struck out the first 5 batters he faced, did not allow a base runner until the bottom of the 5th, and finished the game with 15 strikeouts. The Dodgers cruised to a 5-2 victory, scoring their two runs on a Tommy Tresh home run in the 8th. The Yankees never recovered. They dropped Game Two, 4-1, Game Three, 1-0, and Game Four, 2-1. For the Series, the Yankees hit .171 with a .448 OPS. This was a Yankees team that was second in the AL in batting average, runs, and OPS during the regular season. Nevertheless, they were destroyed by superior pitching.
In 1996, the Yankees were the underdogs against the defending champion Atlanta Braves. In Game One, the Braves crushed the Yankees 12-1, behind a solid performance from John Smoltz and a two home runs from Andruw Jones. The Yankees followed this up by dropping Game Two 4-0 to Greg Maddux. However, the Yankees roared back with 4 straight close wins, 5-2, 8-6, 1-0, 3-2, the first three coming in Atlanta. For the Series, the Yankees were outhit by 40 points of batting average and 100 points of OPS. They also had an ERA 1.6 higher than the Braves, yet they took the Series. The 1996 Yankees were fortunate; for the season they were only 9th in Runs and 3rd in Runs Allowed. The Braves were 4th in Runs and 1st in Runs Allowed, coming off a World Series win, but they could not put the Yankees away.
Do the Yankees still have hope? Of course they do. During the regular season, they were the better team. They just faced the best pitcher they will face this postseason. Now they need to come back against a 37-year-old Pedro Martinez, a much more favorable matchup. If they don’t win tonight, 1996 demonstrates the Series is still not over.
How worried should Yankees fans be?