There's a strange coincidence that keeps happening to the New York Yankees in the postseason.
First it was Texas' bats that went cold. Then Boston couldn't get a clutch hit. Now it's the Braves who can barely generate a rally.
Maybe it's not a coincidence after all. It might be time to give the Yankees' pitchers some credit.
"The last two years have just been one big pitching performance after another," David Cone said Monday, a day after allowing one hit over seven scoreless innings to give New York a 2-0 lead over Atlanta in the World Series.
"We've done it against Texas the last two years, San Diego last year and now against the Braves. It's not just the other guys not hitting. We have something to do with it."
In the nine other games, the Yankees have held the opposition to three or fewer runs.
"How many times did we go through the rotation with the efficiency we had in the postseason?" manager Joe Torre asked. "I don't think we went through a full time or two with the efficiency we've had lately."
The Braves have barely started a rally against the Yankees, hitting .121 and scoring three runs in the losses to Orlando Hernandez and Cone, who each gave up one hit over seven innings.
In the few times Atlanta has put runners on, Cone and Hernandez have shut them down. New York held the Braves hitless in their first 22 at-bats with runners on, before Greg Myers' two-out single in the ninth inning of Game 2.
"I don't care how good they are," Atlanta's Ryan Klesko said. "We shouldn't be doing this bad. We knocked Randy Johnson out twice and he has the best stuff in baseball."
That's the formula the Yankees has used all month. They might let runners on base, but they won't give in. Opposing batters are hitting .182 against New York with runners in scoring position in the playoffs and .140 with runners on base.
That the Yankees pitchers have been so successful in the playoffs shouldn't come as any surprise, given their track record the previous three seasons.
More than any other team, the Yankees are able to exploit the opposition's weaknesses. This year has been no different as they've silnced the free swingers on Texas, Boston and Atlanta.
"We have a lot of guys on our pitching staff who won't give in," Cone said. "We take advantage of guys who swing at pitches out of the strike zone and use their aggressiveness against them."
The Yankees pitchers give much of the credit to the detailed advance reports prepared by scouting director Gene Michael. They go over every tendency and weakness in the opposing hitters what pitches they like and don't like, and what counts they swing on.
"It helps us approach the at-bats," Cone said. "We know who is going to swing at first pitches and we throw breaking balls to them early in the count. It's just pitching backwards."
But Torre knows that good scouting means nothing without pitchers who can execute a game plan.
"You can't go out there without the quality pitchers and expect to be as successful as we have been," Torre said. "It's not just because we picked something up or we know that he can't hit this particular pitch or that. It's still a matter of going from the hand to the catcher's mitt. That takes a lot more than knowing what to do."
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