Joe Girardi goes by the book. For better or worse, he keeps a massive three-ring binder on every team, and he seems to treat it as gospel. He likes matchups. He likes numbers. He likes to believe that history will repeat itself.
Tonight he threw out the book in favor of Curtis Granderson. The Yankees center fielder had been brutal against Francisco Liriano in his career, but Girardi saw enough in the final month and a half of the season to give Granderson the start. In return, Granderson delivered one of the biggest hits of the night.
“I always looked at it as the season is definitely not over until we finish game 162,” Granderson said. “Everything will go ahead and work itself out. Knowing that I was getting consistent balls at-bat after at-bat and not able to do something with that caused the (mechanical) change. It wasn’t a confidence thing. It wasn’t even the matter of not getting hits. It was the fact I wasn’t allowing myself to be able to put the ball in play to give myself the best chance possible to get a hit. That’s when Kevin Long and myself decide to sit down a little bit and discuss a slight change.”
It was a different sort of faith that Girardi showed in Mark Teixeira. Early this season, when Teixeira simply could not hit through the season’s first two months, Girardi trusted his numbers. Teixeira would hit, he had always hit, and he eventually did hit.
Down the stretch, though, it was Teixeira’s health that caused the problems. He got a shot, got some rest, and got going again. Granderson gave the Yankees a lead that was squandered. Teixeira gave them a lead that lasted.
“Our lineup is so deep there is never a reason to give up,” Teixeira said. “There are some teams where maybe two or three guys carry the team, and if you’re in a big hole, it’s just tough to get out of. But with our lineup, we can be down four, five, six runs and we have a chance to score seven or eight.”
Here’s Girardi’s postgame press conference.
• Pitching coach Dave Eiland on what caused CC Sabathia to suddenly walk three batters in the sixth inning, including one with the bases loaded. “His front shoulder was flying open, getting under and around the ball,” Eiland said. “It’s something that we’ve had to address before off and on the past two years. We’ll make the address it and this next time throu”gh, we’ll make the adjustment.”
• As for leaving Sabathia in the game to face — and walk — Danny Valencia: “He’s our No. 1 starter,” Eiland said. “You dig a hole for yourself and we give you a chance to get out of it.”
• Interestingly, this was Ron Gardenhire’s reasoning for leaving Liriano in to face Granderson in the top of the sixth: “I think Liriano deserved the chance to get Granderson out. He hits like .180 off him. You take your starter out in a situation like that, it’s not the right thing to do.”
• In a game that basically became a battle of the bullpens, the Yankees pen went three scoreless innings. They weren’t the easiest ten nine outs, but the Yankees relievers got the outs they needed. “We’ve been contributing a lot this year,” Dave Robertson said. “This game we all had to work hard to get our outs and keep the lead.”
• Greg Golson caught that ball in the ninth inning. Replays showed it, but none of the Yankees actually seemed especially upset at the missed call. Mark Teixeira said he knew right away, but Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Joe Girardi all said they couldn’t tell. “It’s not like (the umpires) were out of position or anything,” Girardi said. “They hustled out there, it just happens.”
• Eiland said Mariano Rivera was, “as good as he’s been in quite a while command-wise.” Rivera agreed, and when he was asked why his command suddenly returned, Rivera gave a very greatest-closer-ever response. “Playoffs. Playoffs says everything,” he said.
• As for Girardi’s announcement before the game that he would hesitate to use Rivera for more than three outs. “I thought it was time to go to Mo,” Girardi said. “It’s one thing to sit up here three hours before the game and talk about what you might do and might not do. You get in a situation and you look at a matchup and I said, it’s a good matchup for Mo.”
• Liriano looked unhitable through the first five innings. Nick Swisher said it was partially because the Yankees came into the game expecting to see a lot of fastballs. “He really went to his offspeed pitches tonight,” Swisher said. “We made a little adjustment.”
• Sabathia got his sixth postseason win. Rivera got his 40th — 40th! — postseason save. The pitcher with the second-most postseason saves is Brad Lidge who has 16. Rivera passed Curt Schilling for sole possession of eighth place in career postseason innings.
• Jorge Posada moved into sole possession of sixth place all time with his 91st career postseason hit. This was Posada’s 112th post season game, tying David Justice for third all-time. Posada tied Mickey Mantle for ninth all-time with 40 postseason RBI.
• Granderson hit his second career postseason triple. The first came against the Yankees in 2006.
• I honestly think this place was just as loud as the Metrodome. I couldn’t believe all the people packed into every bit of open space. “It felt like we were in the ninth inning and we were in the third the place was so electric tonight,” Swisher said.
Associated Press photos of Jeter, Sabathia and Cano