ANAHEIM -- The Yankees are understandably confident, one victory away from a pennant. But the Angels remain confident as well, one loss away from postseason elimination.
The 2009 AL Championship Series no longer has enough room for all this confidence. What we have here is a serious confidence surplus.
These clubs have built up reasons for confidence, with the two best regular-season record in baseball. But now, someone's confidence is misplaced. The 3-1 edge says that the someone is probably not the Yankees. But the Angels are not without legitimate reasons to feel self-assured.
The ALCS resumes on Thursday night, with A.J. Burnett starting for the Yankees and John Lackey going for the Angels. The Yankees got to this point not only because they have tremendous talent, big names and big money. This club has succeeded at the unglamorous work of daily preparation and grinding, focusing only on the task that is directly in front of them.
"We still have a job to do," outfielder Johnny Damon said Wednesday, just before the Yankees took the field for their off-day workout at Angel Stadium. "Our perspective is to keep working, working hard. We have an opportunity to do something special. There is no reason not to give it our all."
"We have professionals on this team," said first baseman Mark Teixeira. "We realize that you're only as good as the game you play. [Thursday] night, we're going to play the game we always have. We've done a great job of doing that all year long."
Down 3-1, the situation of the Angels is not favorable, but their chances are better than non-existent. Since the inception of best-of-seven LCS play in 1985, 28 teams have taken a 3-1 lead and 22 of those have gone on to win the series.
PERFECTLY TIMED STREAK
Six times a team rallying from 3-1 has taken the LCS in seven games, most recently the 2007 Red Sox.
After Gm 4
Of the six teams that successfully came back from a 3-1 LCS deficit, four of them subsequently went on to win the World Series. Those teams were the 1985 Kansas City Royals, the 2003 Florida Marlins and the Boston Red Sox of 2004 and 2007.
That kind of information could be encouraging for the Angels, although manager Mike Scioscia said his team was not tremendously discouraged in the first place.
"Our guys are confident," Scioscia said. "There is nobody in that clubhouse that's down. We know what's in front of us. We know where we have to get to, and there's a terrific challenge for us. And our guys are going to be ready to go mentally for sure.
"I don't think there is anything about a short series when you're definitely out of it until you lose four games. Our guys know that.
"You have to focus on the process. You know we're still in this. The only way you're going to reach that goal is from pitch one. You have to be ready to grind it out all the way through."
Scioscia has a logical position, in that the Yankees have 3-1 series lead, but nobody has an inherent advantage once Game 5 starts.
"You know, the Yankees are obviously closer than we are to getting to the next level," Scioscia said Wednesday. "But they're not there yet. And they're going to have challenges that we're going to bring on the field that they're going to have to overcome. Although obviously we don't have the margin of error that they do right now, we're going to present as many challenges as they're going to present to any team trying to win this game."
The Angels have spent the vast majority of this series playing from behind. The versatility of their offense has not come fully into play, and in any case, trailing the Yankees late in a game with Mariano Rivera waiting in the wings is a recipe for another Yankee victory.
"The Yankees have played at a high level and been able to dictate terms of how this game unfolds with getting some early runs, getting on the board early, getting to some power arms in their pen in Games 1 and 2," Scioscia said. "And obviously, on the mound they're doing a terrific job against us. That's not the way you're going to beat that club."
Both pitchers in the Game 5 matchups have pitched well in this postseason. Burnett had no previous postseason experience, so he's particularly fired up now.
"Yeah, this is why I signed," he said Wednesday. "The opportunity to pitch in the postseason, you know? I have the opportunity, and the first year over here, I have an opportunity, so I'm taking full advantage of it. I cannot wait until [Thursday night]. I'm excited and looking forward to it 100 percent."
One of the biggest challenges for the Angels staff is finding a way to limit the production of Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod has been somewhere between unbelievable and otherworldly at the plate in this postseason. Lackey, the Angels Game 5 starter, described by both teammates and opponents as "a bulldog," is, of course, confident that he can contain Rodriguez.
"If I pitch up to my capabilities, I think I'll be OK," Lackey said. "I've had a little bit of success against him."
The result of Game 5 will dictate whether this ALCS will end or be sent back to New York. Everybody is confident, but only one team's confidence will be supported by the outcome.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.