Marcus Thames has odd career numbers against Cliff Lee. Thames is a career .147 hitter with 15 strikeouts against the Rangers ace, but of his seven hits, three have been home runs and two have been doubles. Thames has a career .500 slugging percentage against Lee.
There is a lot of good and a lot of bad in those numbers, and in some ways, that makes Thames exactly the kind of hitter the Yankees want in the lineup tonight.
“The guy’s got good stuff, but when he’s made some mistakes, Marcus has got him,” Girardi said. “We talk about a guy that, when he makes mistakes, you’ve got to get him. Marcus is that type of guy.”
The Yankees have a patient lineup. Brett Gardner is off-the-charts patient. Nick Swisher is patient. Girardi singled out Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada as hitters who show quite a bit of patience from time to time. Against Lee, Girardi said, those hitters need a slightly different approach.
The Yankees plan to be more aggressive tonight. Not aggressive to the point of always swinging at the first pitch, but to the point of always being ready to swing at the first pitch.
“We have guys that will go up, take a pitch and try to work the count,” Girardi said. “When we say ‘Be aggressive,’ it’s being ready to hit the first pitch. If it’s not your pitch, don’t swing at it. But just be ready to hit the first pitch… Chances are you’re not going to get (a seven-pitch at-bat) off of him.”
The Yankees came from behind against Lee back in August. The rallied a little bit against him in Game 5 of last year’s World Series. How did they do that?
“We had good at-bats,” Girardi said.
• Girardi has not decided who will catch A.J. Burnett tomorrow. “We’ll worry about that tomorrow,” he said.
• Any chance he changes his mind about the Yankees Game 4 starter? Girardi laughed. “We are on rotation is probably the easiest way for me to put it,” he said.
• Lance Berkman is a career .375/.375/.625 hitter in eight career at-bats against Lee, but Girardi said he never considered taking Thames out of the lineup. “Marcus has been our DH against lefties this whole time,” Girardi said. “He’s done a good job. I don’t see any reason why we would change.”
• While he stood by his decision to go with Burnett in Game 4, Girardi said A.J.’s somewhat wild sim game might have been a product of his time off. “I think it played into it,” Girardi said. “The only thing he had done was some light bullpens. He couldn’t really get the work he would normally get in between starts because he was active in the bullpen for us. He couldn’t throw a 35-40 pitch side session, because he wouldn’t have been available the next day for us.”
• Ron Washington said he went with Mitch Moreland at first base today, “Simply because of the at-bats he’s been giving me, how he’s been hanging in there.”
• Washington, doing his best John Sterling impression: “You are very reassured that you have a guy like Cliff Lee, but as I said, it’s tough to predict baseball. You can have your very best out there and things don’t go your way. You can always do things right in this game, and you still get bad results.”
• The Yankees have been pitching very carefully to Josh Hamilton ever since Hamilton homered in his first at-bat of this series. “We all know the numbers he put up against right-handed pitchers,” Girardi said. “He hit over .400 from June to August, and those three months are probably as good as any player has ever had. You have to be careful.”
• Girardi talked pregame with Hal Steinbrenner. He said the conversation was nothing out of the ordinary, just a general chat about the state of the team. “It was a good conversation,” Girardi said.
• Have the Yankees always had the POW/MIA flag, the Purple Heart flag and the City of New York flag at the top of the stadium in right field? They’re there now, which seems new, but I might simply have never noticed them.
• Tino Martinez is here to throw out the first pitch.
Associated Press photos of Cano, and of Martinez with Reggie Jackson