And even with A.J. Burnett making his widely dreaded trip to the mound, there's plenty of reason to feel optimistic about what lies ahead for the Yankees. Lost in all the nailbiting about what Burnett will do on Tuesday night has been the fact that the Rangers aren't exactly sending Roy Halladay to the mound.
Tommy Hunter posted a sharp looking 13-4 record in 23 starts this season, but a deeper look finds that his record was just as misleading as the 13-12 record posted by American League Cy Young favorite Felix Hernandez. Hunter gave up 1.5 home runs per nine innings, a Javier Vazquez-type total, and lefty swingers teed off on him all season long. The Yankees will be sending a heavily left-handed lineup to the plate and you might recall that the team hit a ton of home runs this season.
Or you might not. Outside of Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, the Yankees have posted some mediocre offensive totals since the start of the playoffs and the numbers have only gotten worse through three games against the Rangers. Derek Jeter is 3-for-13, Nick Swisher is 1-for-11 and Alex Rodriguez is 2-for-13 since the start of this series. Jeter and A-Rod each got a hit during the eighth-inning rally in Game One, which means the other 26 innings of the series have been essentially silent films.
As bad as they've been, they're still better than Mark Teixeira. He's 0-for-11 in this series and is now hitting .176 overall across two postseasons with the Yankees. The notorious slow starter must be affected by the fact that it is April, more or less, south of the equator right now because there's really no other easy explanation for why he goes back into his shell when the playoffs get under way.
What will the Yankees do to light a fire under their bats? They'll start Francisco Cervelli, of course. At first inclination, this seems like something Herbert Hoover did in an attempt to stop the Great Depression. It doesn't matter which thing since everything just made it worse. Cervelli barely got a hit from June through August and wasn't the most dynamic offensive player up to that lengthy slump. He did hit well in September, although you have to imagine the reason he's starting is his history working with Burnett.
That's pretty silly for a couple of reasons. One is that Jorge Posada, even in his diminished state, is a better hitter than Cervelli and neither guy is particularly good defensively. The second is that Burnett didn't pitch well with Cervelli. In 2009 you could swallow Jose Molina getting a start because Burnett actually responded to him but this year's version shows no improvement so you might as well accept that you'll have to win a slugfest and go with the guy who is going to do the most to help you win one.
Even with Cervelli in the lineup, the Yankees need to recover their strokes and recover them quickly. Cliff Lee only works as an excuse when he's actually on the mound.