Friday night the Yankees used 16 different position players and eight different pitchers. Last night, they used a slightly more reasonable 14 position players and seven pitchers. Given all of that maneuvering, there’s plenty of room for second guessing, and I’m all for questioning any number of Joe Girardi’s decisions.
But I don’t second guess the decision to use Mariano Rivera last night.
In the sixth inning, I actually had a conversation with one of the other writers saying if the Yankees came back and had a one-run lead in the ninth, it would be hard to keep Rivera out of the game. In that scenario, he would give them the best chance to win.
Had Girardi gone with some other late-inning combination — maybe Chamberlain in the eighth, Wood in the ninth — and that duo blew the game, I’m convinced we’d be having a conversation right now about why in the world Rivera was kept on the bench after just 23 pitches the night before.
If this exact same scenario played out in the postseason, would there be any discussion at all? Wouldn’t Rivera be automatic in the ninth inning one day after throwing 23 pitches? Of course he would, and you know why, because he would give the Yankees the best chance to win. Maybe he was a little tired last night, but he had plenty of rest leading into the weekend, and I don’t really think fatigue played a part. I’d trust a ninth-inning lead to a slightly tired Rivera every time if I could.
Wood in the eighth and Rivera in the ninth gave the Yankees the best chance to win last night. It just didn’t work out. Being upset about the decision because it put Rivera’s long-term health at risk is one thing, but as far as anyone can tell, there was not an injury of any sort. Rivera said he feels fine. Girardi said Rivera feels fine. What went wrong is that the best closer in history walked the leadoff man, then hit a guy with the bases loaded.
It didn’t work out, but I’m not sure that means it was the wrong decision.