Were it not for the 8th-inning miracle in Game 1 of the ALCS, the Yankees would find themselves in a sizable hole. Even though the Yankees left Arlington tied at one game each, they played like a team that should be down 2-0. Of course, now the series shifts to Yankee Stadium and tonight's pivotal Game 3, featuring the classic matchup of Andy Pettitte and Cliff Lee.
Lee has been dominant this post-season, as he was last year. The only losses the Yankees suffered in the 2009 World Series were games started by Lee. This season, Lee is 2-1 against the Yanks: a complete-game win in June and an 8-inning gem in September. One positive for the Yanks was a win in August where they managed to knock Lee out in the 7th. (He did notch 11 K's in only 6-1/3 innings, though.)
As for individual matchups, Joe Girardi will likely tweak the Yankees lineup. For his career Marcus Thames is a .194 batter against Lee, striking out 15 times in 36 at-bats. Conversely, Lance Berkman has three hits, two of them doubles, in eight career AB's against Lee. The simple call would be to start Berkman at DH. Oddly enough, the only other Yankee who has truly struggled against Lee is Robinson Cano. For his career, Robby is only hitting .214 (6-for-28) against the All-Star lefty.
On the other side, Pettitte pitched a great game against the Rangers in April, going 8 innings for the win. But April seems like a very long time ago, to the Yankees and Pettitte, who sat out two months this summer with a groin injury. For his career, Pettitte has given up a lot of hits to the Rangers' lineup, though he's had success against Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz.
With the series tied, home field advantage now swings to the Yankees. For 2010, that has yielded the Yankees a substantial advantage. The Yanks won all three game played in New York back in April, and knocked around the Rangers for a 6.14 ERA at the Stadium. (Granted, Cliff Lee was still wearing a Mariners uniform at the time.) The Rangers struggled on offense though, too, managing only six runs in those three games, batting just .181 (15-83) with one home run.
Joe Torre used to call Game 3 the most important game in a series. There's no question that the fortunes of both teams will turn on the outcome tonight.