It is certainly easy enough to kill Joe Girardi for going with A.J. Burnett on short rest last night, and there are plenty of people already criticizing him for (likely) going to Andy Pettitte on short rest in Game 6. I just don’t happen to be one of them.
Truth is, Girardi had little choice. Could he have pitched Chad Gaudin in Game 5? He could have. As Chad and I talked about in the live chat last week, there was certainly the option to start Gaudin with the bullpen ready behind him since today is an off day and everyone would have rest. I think that option would have been a reasonable choice.
But I can’t go crazy on Girardi for going with Burnett (and Pettitte). Considering the quality of the Yankees bullpen, opting to use his best pitchers as much as he can in the games that matter most is more than defensible.
Does Burnett’s failure mean Pettitte will follow suit? Hardly. Pettitte is 3-1 with a 2.80 ERA in five career postseason starts on short rest. You know what game is included in that? The one everyone knows as the greatest of his career: Game 5 of the 1996 World Series (8 1/3 shutout innings against Atlanta). Game 2 of the ’03 World Series is in there, too (8 2/3, one unearned run vs. Florida).
If Chien-Ming Wang was healthy, Girardi probably wouldn’t be using three starters. If Joba Chamberlain had been lights out in that role all season, he might not either. But he is. And it is a reasonable a decision as any. Now he just needs the players to deliver.