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Yankees been there, done that
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10/01/2003  3:56 PM ET 
Yankees been there, done that
Team too experienced to get down over Game 1 loss
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Manager Joe Torre looks on during batting practice Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. (Julie Jacobson/AP)
NEW YORK -- It was hardly surprising that the Yankees seemed as relaxed as ever while hosting the media throngs before Wednesday's workout.

Despite the fact that they looked wholly un-Yankee-like in their 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins in Tuesday's Game 1 of the American League Division Series, typical Bronx smiles and pats on the back could be seen in the clubhouse.

Maybe the good times continue to roll because the stats are on their side.

The only three times the Yankees have dropped the first game of an ALDS, they've rallied to win those series and they've advanced to the World Series.

In the 1996 ALDS, the Yankees dropped the first game at home to the Texas Rangers, then won the next three and went on to win their first Fall Classic in 18 years.

In 2000, Gil Heredia and the Oakland A's beat the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS, but the Yankees eventually took the series in five games and beat the Mets in the Subway Series.

And in 2001, the Yankees lost the first two games of the ALDS in Yankee Stadium before shortstop Derek Jeter's astonishing flip assist to catcher Jorge Posada on Jeremy Giambi sparked a historic, unprecedented comeback against the A's.

In other words, they are pretty good at this stuff.

"You don't win as many games, and as many tough games, as we have won by not understanding what you need to do," manager Joe Torre said rather emphatically Wednesday.

"It's pretty clear what we have to do. If we don't get a win pretty soon, we run out of time."

Brian Cashman has stocked up and retooled this formidable lineup as general manager since 1998, and he said the makeup of the players he looks for contributes greatly to the professional attitude that eschews the word "panic" from the vocabulary.

"We look for guys that are mentally tough enough to play in this city," Cashman said.

"Let's face it. We're in the postseason all the time, and in many cases a lot of our regular-season games are treated like playoff games. Whether it's Boston in May or the Mets in June, it always seems like our games have that postseason urgency attached to them. We're built to handle that pressure."

    Derek Jeter   /   SS
Derek Jeter
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 195
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
Player page
Stats
Splits
Hit chart
Yankees site

Perhaps no player understands that pressure more than Jeter, who was named team captain in June.

He is the one on the billboards and in the TV ads, and he's the one with the largest gathering of reporters around his locker before and after every game.

On Wednesday, he said the team would approach Thursday's game like every other.

"Every game is a must-win situation for us," Jeter said. "Even if we would have won Game 1, I would have told you it's a must-win. We have to do it. We didn't play well yesterday. We have to come back and play well in Game 2."

Mike Mussina, the hard-luck loser of Game 1, said he didn't expect any adjustments in game plan or attitude from his battle-tested teammates.

    Mike Mussina   /   P
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 185
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
Player page
Stats
Splits
Yankees site

"We're not going to change that much," Mussina said. "We're going to play better, though. We're going to be more prepared. It's just that simple. When you're experienced in the postseason like we are, you know every game is important and you know that usually the first game doesn't decide the series."

Jeter agreed, noting that being down a game or even being up a game doesn't guarantee anything.

"We've lost the first game and won," Jeter said. "Jason (Giambi) has won the first game and lost (with Oakland). All of the rest of it is just stats, stats, stats. If they meant anything, we wouldn't have even been playing the Twins. We'd get a first-round bye."

Jeter has a point.

Consider that the Yankees won the first game in the 1997 ALDS against the Cleveland Indians, and they came back in dramatic fashion to edge the Anaheim Angels in Game 1 last year.

Then they lost both of those series.

"The bottom line is that it's our job to get the job done," Jeter said. "It's up to us to respond.

"It's still the same game whether you're down or up a game, and whether it's October or June. It's baseball. It's not football. And most of the guys have been here and have the experience."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.




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