Like '06, Yanks face must-win game in Detroit

Like '06, Yanks face must-win game in Detroit

DETROIT -- This situation will seem all too familiar for several members of the Yankees' clubhouse, reminding them of a dark corner of their playoff history that they've worked hard to forget.

For the most part, the Yankees crew that will show up on Tuesday afternoon at Comerica Park only knows of 2006 as a footnote in franchise lore -- even the likes of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez swear they don't remember much.

"I know they beat us," Jeter said, "but other than that, I can't really tell you too much about it."

That's not completely surprising, and the cast of characters has completely changed to the point where comparisons between the rosters are a pointless exercise.

Still, there are a few too many similarities for the Bombers' tastes as they face elimination in the American League Division Series.

Just as they did in '06, the Yankees posted a Game 1 win in the Bronx before taking a loss in Game 2 -- pushed back a day by rain in both series, eliminating the workout day.

With a quick turnaround to get to Detroit, the Yankees arrived at Comerica Park and struggled with a Tigers starter -- then, Kenny Rogers; now Justin Verlander -- before heading into a do-or-die situation in Game 4.

"Guys battled very hard the last two days," Rodriguez said. "We played 27 outs. We're proud of the way the guys came out and played hard. We keep giving ourselves the opportunities late. The key is to get the lead early, hand it over to our bullpen and let them do the job."

The '06 Yankees needed Jaret Wright to step in and save their season. Five years later, they're asking A.J. Burnett to go from bullpen duty to pitching what has to be their biggest game of the season.

"I feel good about it," manager Joe Girardi said. "I feel good about what A.J. is going to do for us tomorrow."

It was too much to ask in '06, as manager Joe Torre even tried to shake up the lineup by pulling off the unthinkable move of dropping slumping A-Rod to eighth in the batting order, hoping it would wake up his slugger.

No one expects Girardi to try a new lineup out for Game 4 against Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello, but clearly the Yankees would welcome something extra from A-Rod, who did offer an RBI and two walks in Game 3, but remains hitless in 10 ALDS at-bats.

"I think we can win no matter what," Rodriguez said. "You've got to throw statistics out the window in the playoffs. The only statistic that matters is winning games.

"And I think both Tex [Mark Teixeira] and I are prepared for big at-bats. The playoffs come down to a few key at-bats, and when those at-bats come, we'll be there."

In '06, the Yankees lost the final two games of the series by a combined score of 14-3. The Tigers went on to sweep the A's in the AL Championship Series and lost to the Cardinals in five World Series games.

The Yanks' flight home from Detroit in '06 was described as a very quiet one by the players who were on board -- probably similar to the hush that was in the visiting clubhouse late Monday night as the Yankees showered, dressed and departed for their hotel.

"Every loss is disappointing in the postseason," Teixeira said. "Every game is like a mini-season. You go through ups and downs and at the end of the day, you want to be on top. We didn't get it done today, but we have a chance to win tomorrow and go back to New York."

They will, actually, one way or the other. And these Yankees know what early playoff exits feel like -- they had one in the AL Championship Series last year after six games, and hated the feeling then of going home from Texas empty-handed and outplayed.

They can only imagine how much more a first-round exit this time through would sting, having been fortunate to treat their previous two ALDS meetings as little more than tune-ups for the later rounds.

"Tomorrow, we've got to win," Brett Gardner said. "We've won two games in a row a lot this year. We're probably not in the position we want to be in, but we've still got a game tomorrow."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.