The Yankees need only look at their own history to know that a two-games-to-none deficit in a best-of-five playoff series is not insurmountable.
It’s now one down, two to go after Sunday’s 1-0 victory over the Indians in Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium.
In 2001, the Yankees came back from an 0-2 ALDS deficit, rallying for three straight wins over the A’s. They had dropped the first two games at Yankee Stadium just a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
The Yankees had won the AL East title that year with a record of 95-65. The A’s were 102-60 in the AL West — 14 games behind the Mariners, who won the division title with an amazing mark of 116-46.
(In 2017, the wild-card Yankees, who were 91-71, are chasing a team that won 102 games, including 22 straight at one point.)
Roger Clemens, who was 20-3 in the regular season, was the losing pitcher in ALDS Game 1 in 2001 as he was bested by Mark Mulder. Tino Martinez homered for the Yankees, but that was offset by blasts from Terrence Long and Jason Giambi.
In Game 2, Tim Hudson outpitched Andy Pettitte as the Yankees lost, 2-0. Ron Gant homered for the A’s. The A’s were a victory away from their first ALCS since 1991.
The scene shifted to Oakland, and Game 3 became a Derek Jeter highlight reel that still plays to this day.
Jorge Posada’s solo home run off Barry Zito in the fifth — one of only two hits in the game by the Yankees — was the only run in the game and made a winner out of Yankees starter Mike Mussina.
Jeter’s handiwork saved Mussina’s shutout in the seventh inning. Jeremy Giambi was on first base when Long lined a drive into the rightfield corner. Shane Spencer missed not one but two cutoff men as Giambi rounded third base. Jeter raced across the diamond, grabbed the ball and backhanded a flip to Posada at the plate. Giambi did not slide and Posada got him for the third out.
“I just remember that Mussina was great that game and then the ball’s hit down the rightfield line,’’ Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay said Sunday. `Spencer actually made a bad throw. I just remember Jeter cutting over and flipping it to him. You just knew that [the series] was probably going to New York.’’
That’s precisely what happened after a 9-2 win in Game 4. The Yankees won Game 5, 5-3, as Mussina got his second victory in the series.
Jeter again starred in the field as he made a backhanded grab of a foul ball hit by Long, turned his body and flipped into the stands. Thom Brennaman on Fox Sports called the play: “1-1 to Terrence Long. Popped up, third-base side, Brosius and Jeter both over. JETER . . . DID HE GET IT?! DID HE GET IT?! DID HE GET IT?! HE GOT IT! HE GOT IT! They throw to second; the runner tags and he’s safe. Or are they saying he didn’t get it? Now they’re appealing; the first-base umpire didn’t know if Jeter caught it, had to ask the second-base umpire, and they said he caught it.”
Can the Yankees do it again in this series? “I don’t know how the young guys are going to react,’’ Kay said of the Yankees. “When you hit a lot of home runs, you’re going to be neutralized by good pitching. They led the majors in home runs, but they do get shut down if you throw a good game at them. The thing that makes me think there could be a Game 5, they got Tanaka [Sunday’s winning pitcher] and [Luis] Severino going.’’