Late last night, when Game 4 was over and the Yankees were officially on the brink, Joe Girardi addressed the team in the Yankees clubhouse. “Whatever happened there, I will never tell you,” Mariano Rivera said. Without getting into detail, Rivera said the tone of Girardi’s message was simple.
“Win today, period,” Rivera said. “Just win today and don’t think about tomorrow. Just have to win today, and the rest, we take care of the rest (later).”
Girardi doesn’t like to say much about what goes on behind the closed doors of the Yankees clubhouse. It was Rivera who revealed last night’s pep talk. Girardi never mentioned it.
As he sat in his office talking to the beat writers at noon, Girardi seemed the same as always. He was loose. He said he didn’t spend much time second guessing himself. “Sometimes your plan doesn’t work,” Girardi said. It’s the way he deals with games like last night. It’s the way the Yankees deal with games like today.
“Looking into their eyes, I believe our guys will be ready to play today,” Girardi said. “… Our clubhouse is upbeat. It’s always upbeat, and that comes with experience and understanding what you have to do. In a situation or tough games, you have to be yourself. Our guys love to have fun and they love to play hard and they love the competition, and they are business as usual.”
That said, there’s no sense pretending that there’s not a little bit of surprise at being in this situation.
“I would not have anticipated being down three games to one,” Girardi said. “I would not have anticipated that, especially after the first game when we came back and won that game and felt like we had some momentum. They’ve out hit us and they’ve out pitched us, and that’s why they’re ahead 3-1.
“But saying that, we’ve got our horse on the mound today, who’s been there for us all year long. When things were down, he was the one constant for us.”
The Yankees need him today.
• The last time the Yankees trailed a seven-game series 3-1 was 1958, when they came back with three straight wins — two of them on the road — to win the World Series. The only other time they’ve trailed 3-1 was 1942, when they lost in five games.
• Girardi said the Yankees called up Eduardo Nunez instead of Juan Miranda partially because of Nunez’s flexibility and speed. Also Nunez was the one actually staying sharp in Tampa. Fact is, even against right-handed hitters, I doubt Miranda would get a start ahead of Marcus Thames and certainly not ahead of Lance Berkman.
• Girardi said, at the time, he did not think last night’s eighth-inning pitch hit Nick Swisher. “No I didn’t,” Girardi said. “I guess it grazed his pants. Swish didn’t really make a huge stink out of it, and you go by the reaction because I definitely can’t see it.”
• Josh Hamilton has crushed the Yankees this season, a combination of his talent and the Yankees mistakes. “That’s execution,” Girardi said. “I can’t tell you what he would have done if we had kept all the balls down and away, but we’ve made some mistakes on him.”
• Girardi said he was not caught up in the moment when he stuck with A.J. Burnett last night. “I’m able to take the emotion out of it,” Girardi said. “That has never been something for me, that I really get wrapped up in emotions or the emotions of the crowd. That was not it. I just felt A.J. was going to get Molina out.”
• Girardi does not expect to use Phil Hughes out of the bullpen tonight, but if he does, Girardi said it’s still possible Hughes would start Game 6 in Texas. If Hughes pitches tonight, Girardi said he would expect either Hughes or Andy Pettitte to get that Game 6 start, depending on how many pitches Hughes throws.
• Rivera said he’s ready for as many outs as necessary: “Hopefully I can do whatever they ask me to do, God willing.”
Associated Press photos of Rodriguez coming out of the dugouts, and Cano and Jeter talking during batting practice