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Postgame notes: The battle and the war

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Yankees Rays BaseballJoe Girardi elected to play things extremely safe with his bullpen tonight, yet he used Brett Gardner to pinch run on the day he got an MRI on his right wrist, and he used Nick Swisher to pinch hit on the day before he gets a second MRI on his left knee.

“We just felt like we had to stay away from some guys tonight,” Girardi said. “It’s not the first time I’ve done it during the season, but that doesn’t mean we’re not trying to win the game.”

Mariano Rivera was available only in a save situation, but Dave Robertson and Joba Chamberlain were out of the mix. Robertson had pitched back-to-back days two days ago, so that made some sense. Chamberlain, though, seemed curious. Especially considering Girardi said: “He should be available to us tomorrow. We just felt he needed another day today.”

Girardi, Chamberlain and Dave Eiland all said Chamberlain is 100 percent healthy, but Chamberlain said the Yankees had talked to him about the fact he’s approaching 65 games this season. They wanted to give him a break, and Chamberlain said he was OK with taking it. Eiland suggested the decision was primarily about saving bullets.

“This was a big game obviously, you want to win, but it wasn’t do or die,” Eiland said. “With CC going, we felt like he could get us deep into the game. We had Woody well rested, Boone Logan well rested… Sometimes you lose the battle to win the war. We’re going to have all our big guns, so to speak, tomorrow.”

Here’s Girardi speaking after the game.

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Yankees Rays BaseballHyped as a matchup of Cy Young candidates, tonight’s pitching duel between CC Sabathia and David Price did not disappoint. By the fifth inning it became clear the game would be decided by the bullpens. With first place on the line, neither starting pitcher was going to concede the high ground.

“That was a classic,” Eiland said. “That’s going to be talked about for a while.”

Sabathia: “It was just being able to mix it up, (and pitching to) both sides of the plate. And just keeping their speedsters off the bases so you can concentrate on facing the Pena’s and Longoria’s.”

Price: “That was a good game. It was kind of what everybody was expecting, and that’s what they go, so it was a good game… That’s what happens when you face a guy like that.”

• Sergio Mitre had pitched once since September 5. The home run came on a changeup. “When the ball’s given to me, I expect to do the job,” he said. “And I didn’t do it tonight.”

• Eiland said Chad Guadin tried to nibble too much when he walked B.J. Upton to load the bases. On the strikeout against Brad Hawpe, Gaudin got aggressive. For a half inning, it was a huge moment in the game.

Yankees Rays Baseball• Brett Gardner on his blown steal of third base: “I don’t want to go into detail about what I saw or why I did it, but I thought at the time that there was no way he was going to pick. It was a 1-0 count I was trying to get to third, maybe take away the slider and gets Kearnsy a better pitch to hit. I got a good jump and he picked, and I wasn’t expecting it. I got caught, I screwed up, and it was my fault.”

• Nick Swisher said he went to Girardi before the game and told him he could hit whenever Girardi needed him, but it was clear from watching him run to third that Swisher’s knee is a problem. “We took the MRI before and it said that there was nothing, but I found that really, really hard to believe,” Swisher said. “Go in there tomorrow and whatever happens, take it head on.”

• Gardner said his wrist already felt better tonight than it did this morning.

• Javier Vazquez is considered more of an emergency option out of the bullpen. Girardi didn’t want to go to him unless he had to.

• The Rays have first place in the American League East for only the second day since they were there 52 straight days ending on June 13. The Yankees haven’t been in second place since August 3.

Associated Press photos of Mitre, Sabathia and Jeter.