Living or Dying by Offense

Though they showed signs of holding the Yankees in check early, asking Indians pitchers Jake Westbrook and Aaron Fultz to

Though they showed signs of holding the Yankees in check early, asking Indians pitchers Jake Westbrook and Aaron Fultz to keep the Yankees away from the big innings proved to be futile, while the collapse of pitching icon Roger Clemens was rendered irrelevant thanks to the heroics 21-year-old Phil Hughes.

The 8-4 win by the Yankees, which averted a three-game sweep by Cleveland, was typical stuff for a team that scored 968 times this season, roughly six times per game.

Things didn't look good early on, when Derek Jeter twice grounded into double plays to snuff out early rallies, and the Yankees found themselves trailing 3-1 heading into the fifth.

Against a tiring Westbrook, the Yankees struck for three on a Johnny Damon home run, and three more when Cleveland outfielder Trot Nixon, overran a Robinson Cano single for a two-base error.

The Yankees will need to keep it up if they intend to win Games 4 to continue the series. Chances of a 3-1 scoreline are looking slim.

The long-relief safety net of Phil Hughes, and the bullpen arm of Joba Chamberlain, will not be around to keep Cleveland bats silent in the innings that precede Mariano Rivera.

Joe Torre announced Sunday night that his Game 4 starter will be Chien-Ming Wang, who has very little experience pitching on just three days' rest (though his ERA is a respectable 3.86 in the 4 2/3 innings he logged doing so), and who got crushed by the Indians his last time out: seven runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The first option in long relief is probably Mike Mussina. While Mussina has pitched well for the Yankees, his ERA since the All Star Break is 5.72, and he was completely ineffective in his final start against the Baltimore Orioles.

The rest of the bullpen offers less thann usual. Joba Chamberlain, on the heels of pitching two innings in Game 3, would be hard-pressed to go more than an inning. An early exit by the starter woul leave the Yankees trying to get to the eighth on the backs of youngsters Ross Ohlendorf and Jose Veras, both of whom struggled in Game 1, Luis Vizcaino, or Kyle Farnsworth, who holds the distinction of being the only Yankee booed during pregame introductions. (Even the massage trainer got polite applause.)

Working in New York’s favor is Cleveland’s pitcher, Paul Byrd, whose 4.59 ERA doesn’t begin to tell the story. He allows a .301 batting average to opponents, including a .322 mark against lefties. And the Yankees are in the habit of crushing both righties (their righties have hit righties even harder than their lefties, .301/.371/.500) and finesse pitchers (.311/.381/.501).

Cleveland will haven its best two relievers, Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez rested in support of Byrd, in addition to rookie Jenson Lewis, who came in for one inning in Game 3 and struck out the side.

The Yankees will need to keep it up if they intend to win Games 4 to continue the series. Chances of a 3-1 scoreline are looking slim.

The long-relief safety net of Phil Hughes, and the bullpen arm of Joba Chamberlain, will not be around to keep Cleveland bats silent in the innings that precede Mariano Rivera.

Joe Torre announced Sunday night that his Game 4 starter will be Chien-Ming Wang, who has very little experience pitching on just three days' rest (though his ERA is a respectable 3.86 in the 4 2/3 innings he logged doing so), and who got crushed by the Indians his last time out: seven runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The first option in long relief is probably Mike Mussina. While Mussina has pitched well for the Yankees, his ERA since the All Star Break is 5.72, and he was completely ineffective in his final start against the Baltimore Orioles.

The rest of the bullpen offers less than usual. Joba Chamberlain, on the heels of pitching two innings in Game 3, would be hard-pressed to go more than an inning. An early exit by the starter woul leave the Yankees trying to get to the eighth on the backs of youngsters Ross Ohlendorf and Jose Veras, both of whom struggled in Game 1, Luis Vizcaino, or Kyle Farnsworth, who holds the distinction of being the only Yankee booed during pregame introductions. (Even the massage trainer got polite applause.)

Working in New York’s favor is Cleveland’s pitcher, Paul Byrd, whose 4.59 ERA doesn’t begin to tell the story. He allows a .301 batting average to opponents, including a .322 mark against lefties. And the Yankees are in the habit of crushing both righties (their righties have hit righties even harder than their lefties, .301/.371/.500) and finesse pitchers (.311/.381/.501).

Cleveland will have its best two relievers, Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez rested in support of Byrd, in addition to rookie Jenson Lewis, who came in for one inning in Game 3 and struck out the side.

With a Game 5 date with C.C. Sabathia looming, the Yankees will have their work cut out for them coming back and winning this series.

But if they don’t get jump on Paul Byrd early on in Game 4, they probably won't even get to the decider.

Living or Dying by Offense