Mariano Rivera threw 21 pitches last night. He got a four-out save that was essentially a five-out save. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Rivera is absolutely available tonight, but probably not for more than one inning.
“I would prefer not to do it tonight,” Girardi said. “But I said that last night.”
There can be no doubt that there’s a certain comfort that comes with Rivera. Like Girardi said this afternoon, there’s no fair comparison. No one has been this good for this long in this role. It’s such a track record that, even at 40 years old, bumps in the road don’t mean much.
Rivera struggled down the stretch, one of two periods of three or four outings when he wasn’t himself.
“It wasn’t his mechanics, it was his hand position on the ball,” pitching coach Dave Eiland said. “When you show the player – they can feel something – and when you show them, it kind of clicks.”
Based on the all the broken bats last night, it seemed Rivera had clearly made the adjustment. Everything clicked, just like it’s clicked time after time since the mid-90s.
“Command was better, everything was better, and the result was better,” Rivera said.
Girardi doesn’t want to use his closer for more than three outs tonight, but in a crucial situation — no matter how good Kerry Wood has been since the trade deadline — it’s hard to imagine anyone the Yankees would rather have on the mound.
“He’s tremendous to have because you know the situation isn’t going to affect who he is,” Girardi said. “Mo’s been doing it so long, I think he enjoys the situations and I think he thrives in them.”
• A day after the blown call in right field, Girardi once again gave his position on instant replay in baseball: “As long as it doesn’t slow the game down,” Girardi said. “The thing about expanded replay for me is, could they have reviewed that play as quick as they talked about it? Probably. It’s the same amount of time. It might even be less time.”
• Was Nick Swisher bunting on his own last night? Girardi wouldn’t say, at least not with words. There could be no doubt, based on his physical reaction to the question, that Girardi certainly didn’t call for the bunt. Someone said that Rob Thomson seemed to talk to Swisher very quickly after the failed bunt attempt, and Girardi only nodded. Bottom line: I wouldn’t expect to see Swisher laying down a bunt in the early innings tonight.
• There seems to always be some frustration from the fan base whenever Brett Gardner gets to first base and doesn’t try to steal. He had a chance to run last night and didn’t do it. “You just can’t run reckless where you get picked off and you take yourself out of an inning,” Girardi said. “You’ve got to make sure you’re able to read a guy’s move that you’re able to get a good jump, and those are the things that he does.”
• Derek Jeter hit some balls hard last night, continuing a trend that started in the last month of the season. “I think his at-bats have been a lot better,” Girardi said. “I think he’s hitting the ball harder. When he was in his rut, he was getting jammed a lot and hitting some weak ground balls. You see him hitting the ball to right field and center field with authority, and that’s good.”
• Girardi said he wasn’t worried about taking his only lefty out of the game in the seventh inning last night. In his mind, there were two innings to play and — lefty or righty — he knew the two pitchers he was going to use. “We’ve talked about Woody being our eighth-inning guy, and that’s probably where we’re going to use him,” Girardi said.
• Girardi said he plans to stick with Curtis Granderson as his everyday center fielder throughout the playoffs, regardless of lefty or righty starting pitcher. Last night might have reinforced that, but had Granderson taken an 0-for it wouldn’t have changed Girardi’s opinion. “This is a guy who for two months has hit off of lefties,” Girardi said. “So I don’t make a determination by one game.”
• One of Girardi’s many bullpen rules in the regular season was a refusal to use relievers four out of five days. He said that ban could be lifted in the postseason. “There’s a possibility we can use some guys four out of five nights if we had to,” he said.
• The Twins used Brian Fuentes for five batters last night, but manager Ron Gardenhire said Fuentes is available tonight.
• Girardi on the fact he’s in the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame and Jim Thome is not: “They have made a mistake. Jim was, you know, a little bit younger than I was, and I never had a chance to play against him growing up. But I did in the big leagues. Somehow we grew up in the same area and I got like 1/20th of his power. I’m not sure what happened.”
Associated Press photos of Rivera with Posada, and of Teixeira’s game-winning home run last night