Mike Mussina was not thrilled with being told to intentionally walk Jay Bruce with two outs in the fifth inning. Jolbert Cabrera ripped the next pitch for a two-run double and a 3-1 lead. Against Edinson Volquez, who is a stud, the Yankees were toast.
It was an interesting decision by Joe Girardi. Let’s examine the particulars:
Situation: It was 1-1 with two outs and a runner on third.
Jay Bruce: The rookie had driven 12 runs in his first 23 games and was 7 for 19 with RISP. However, Bruce was 8 of his last 43 with one RBI as he came to the plate. He had yet to be intentionally walked. He was 1 for 2 against Mussina in the game, hitting the ball hard both times.
Jolbert Cabrera: He was 2 for 2 against Moose to that point and 3 for 5 in his career. One of the hits last night was a bunt, the second a clean single. But he had only 15 ABs against RHPs all season. He had not yet had an AB with RISP.
Other factors: Bruce is a lefty. Lefties are hitting .235 against Mussina this season. Cabrera is right-handed. They are hitting .308 against Mussina.
It’s tough call. In a 1-1 game in the fifth inning, I don’t think you intentionally walk a rookie with 88 career ABs. Moose is tricky enough to get him. I’m generally against putting runners on base unless it’s stone-cold masher and you’re protecting a lead. The pitcher almost always has an advantage. But I really didn’t have a problem with it at the time. Cabrera has far more experience than Bruce but is a middling player at best.
The deeper issue is that Mussina would prefer to manage his own game. At 39 and with 260 victories on his resume, he believes he has earned that right. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, that’s just how it is. Girardi let him decide whether to walk Manny Ramirez on April 12. But he took the Jay Bruce decision out of his hands.
â€œI didnâ€™t get to choose. It was the path they chose. That was it,â€ Mussina said. â€œYou saw what I saw. Held up four fingers; I throw four balls.â€
Mussina was terse with the media but didn’t go into details about what specifically was bothering him. â€œA couple of things, but Iâ€™m not going to elaborate on it,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m not talking about it.â€
You didn’t need to be Jim Rockford to figure it out. Mussina even make a point to exonerate Johnny Damon for losing that ball in the lights, which started the whole mess.
Mussina will get over it, what other choice does he have? But how he and Girardi work together will be worth keeping an eye on as the season moves on.