Mike Soscia was absolutely right last week when – in response to a reporter asking whether the ALCS Game 3 that the Angels had just won in dramatic fasion to claw back into the series at 2 games to 1 - he said there is no such thing as a must-win until you are playing in an elimination game.
Mark Teixeira was also right when he said, in response to the same question from a reporter after last night's victory, that every game of a World Series is a must-win.
The first is a statement of fact. The second is a statement of psychology. Players have to approach every post-season game, at-bat, and play in the field as do-or-die. Then find a way to do that with the calmness and control most easily achieved by thinking of the moment as no more consequential than a pick-up game in their backyard.
I don't know how they do it because I don't even have that much discipline as a fan. On post-season series off-days I am unable to let go and just focus on my work. Instead, I sit around endlessly and rather pointlessly playing the same 2 or 3 scenarios for the rest of that series out in my head. This is only slightly more defensible then replaying games that have already happened and wondering "what if?". And even then, only in a philosophical kind of way because neither act of obsession will change anything. It's just that one focuses on the unknown future while the other is about the settled past – which really can't change except when Superman reverses the rotation of the Earth. And so I find myself this morning with a mountainous to-do list and rapidly-passing-deadlines spinning my mental wheels on the following:
Last night was clearly a must-win for New York. The Yankees must also win either tomorrow's start by Andy or the next one by CC because they must not get into a situation of facing Lee in an elimination game – especially one to be played in Philly and without CC on the mound, which is what Game 5 will be if they don't pull out Game 3 and/or Game 4.
And even if they can win one of the next two, the best they are likely to gain is a trip back to New York where they'll need to win the last two games in a row – because again, Game 5 is as good as played-and-lost already. So actually, the next TWO games are must-wins so that even when Lee carves them up like gutted fish (see AG's great descriptive post from yesterday for this imagery) in Game 5, they can go home knowing they only need to pick up one of two games to be started respectively by two of their top three starters.
Of course, if they lose tomorrow, then all the pressure is on CC on short rest in Game 4. So really, it is just tomorrow night's game that is really a must-win. Unless they lose tomorrow – and then Game 4 is really really a must-win.
If they do win only one of Game 3 or Game 4, then Game 6 would be a must-win in the Mike-Soscia-it's-a-fact kind of way (as well as the Mark-Teixeira-this-is-how-we-must-approach-it kind of way). And if they won that, then Game 7 would be a must-win because all Game 7s are must-wins.
And if Manuel suddenly decides to throw Lee on short rest in Game 4 then a whole new round of scenario-obsessing can begin.
Of course, if the Yankees don't win any of these must-wins then there will be nothing left to obsess about – except the past. And then I'll have to go find Lois Lane and do something awful to her. Although if I wait for an undesirable outcome of the World Series to do that then even that step won't be sufficient to retroactively help the Yankees.
So now you know why I'll be watching tomorrow night's must-win Game 3 with Lois Lane and an itchy trigger-finger.