AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 Win because their offense is better, their bullpen is about as good and their rotation is now better than many realize. Win because they won’t be caught off-guard by the aggressive play of the Angels, as they clearly were in 2002. Win because the play of that offense actually approaches the first $200-million payroll. Win because, as hot at the Angels have been, the Yankees have been just as hot, only longer. And win because – let’s face it – the bad guys are seriously overdue. The Yankees spent last offseason doing two things: Failing to live down their horrid playoff collapse to the Boston Red Sox and spending more of George Steinbrenner’s money. Every team is motivated in the playoffs, but the Yankees will be particularly inspired via their favorite whipping boy having risen up to slap them around last postseason, the Angels stunning them three years ago and now having gone five entire years since their last World Series title. Five years without a title in the Land of Steinbrenner doesn’t qualify just a drought, it’s scorched Earth. It’s not a diet, it’s break out the IVs. “There’s pressure, but it’s a good pressure,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “Because George Steinbrenner certainly puts his money where his mouth is.” The Yankees are that rare sporting oddity – the first and last team you want to meet in the playoffs. They’re both because they come equipped with more history than Idaho. They have won a record 26 World Series. They stop by the Fall Classic like it’s the local watering hole on the way back from the 8-5 shift. You want to meet the Darth Yankees in the playoffs. It makes it even more special, the possible winning all the sweeter. The only thing that would enhance this meeting would be it coming in the American League Championship Series. “The thing about the mystique is, those guys play the game the right way,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “They are deep. They’ve begun to pitch better and I think that’s probably what has fueled their ride to the playoffs.” The thing about this Yankees team is, they’ve had to overcome more than any of the previous seven consecutive division winners. They started the season 11-19. They actually trailed Tampa Bay at one point. They sent more starting pitchers to the disabled list than some teams did entire rosters. And they charged back. Showed something beyond a bigger payroll than some third-world countries. Showed a grit and determination than many would have been loath to give them credit for. This Yankees team has been toughened by the season, by their long battle to get here. So they’re opening on the road. “You have to come out here sooner or later,” Torre said. So the Angels are the only team to have a winning record against them since 1996. That would be a one-game advantage (49-48). So the Angels have an edge in starting pitching depth. It’s not as overwhelming as once appeared. Tonight’s New York starter, Mike Mussina, is a veteran who won’t be rattled by an excited road crowd. The Angels can’t be sure what to expect from Chien-Ming Wang, having never seen him before. If the Angels are going to advance past the Yankees as they did in ’02, they’d best take both opening games at Anaheim. Randy Johnson, again pitching like his Cy Young self, is scheduled to start Game 3 in New York; the Angels do not want to fall behind two games to one to the Yankees. These are not the same Yankees the Angels took the season series from. “We feel like we’re a better team now than when we played them the first time,” Mussina said. “Whether we’re doing things better or we just feel better about ourselves, I don’t think it really matters.” Despite the Angels’ pitching, the most explosive team in baseball is going to score runs. Probably just enough runs. Beloved in New York, despised most everywhere else because of their success – and attitude and models on their arms and wealth – these Yankees are ready for whatever. “Over the last three months it started coming together, and then the last month it was like they were not going to be denied,” Torre said. Sometimes the damsel in distress is left on the tracks. Sometimes the guy with the black hat and oily mustache wins. Steve Dilbeck’s column appears in the Daily News four times a week. He can be reached at [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! ANAHEIM – The bad guys are back, and ain’t it just grand? Could it get any better than this? The Yankees – hiss, boo – and their overstuffed wallets and glossy magazine covers and outlandish record of success are back to irritate and pose and win. See, sometimes the bad guys do win. Or in the Yankees’ case, win more than any other team in American sports history. And, sad to say for all those newfound Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim fans, the Yankees are going to win again.