The day after Mariano Rivera’s third straight outing in which he allowed at least one run — and this time it was a three-run homer — Joe Girardi was warning against thinking this is the beginning of the end for the 41-year-old closer.
“I think people, when players are older, are always looking for a sign,” Girardi said. “There are too many times when that sign is not there yet, but they’re looking hard for it. As I said about Derek (Jeter) when he was going through a little bit of struggle, I wouldn’t bet against him. And lo and behold, he gets hot. He’s been playing extremely well.
“(Rivera) has had a couple of days in a row where he has given up runs. I remember in 2009, he kind of got off to that slow start and people were saying, ‘Is this the beginning of the end?’ And let’s not forget, I think he threw two innings in Game 6 against the Phillies. He might have given us five outs against the Angels.
“I wouldn’t be too quick to jump to conclusions.”
Rivera has given up an extra-base hit in a career-high-tying three straight games, allowing a homer in each of the last two.
“Great hitters go in slumps and you say, ‘Wow, can you believe this guy is in a slump this long?’ ” Girardi said. “It’s just the game of baseball. Mo has been so close to being automatic that when he has a blip, it’s more of a news story than somebody else.”
Girardi doesn’t see any mechanical failure.
“He looks to me the same as he’s looked for years,” Girardi said.
So what would be a bad sign?
“I think if he got in a lot of three-ball counts,” Girardi said. “If he starts walking people or starts really getting behind people and not having the ability to throw strikes, I would say something was really off. But we’re not seeing that. We’re seeing him throw strikes. We’re seeing him miss a little bit and guys are hitting him.”
*Phil Hughes gets the ball tomorrow against the Rays, standing on the mound and presumably the bubble, because the rotation is about to be hacked from six to five. A.J. Burnett is presumably standing on the bubble with him. But he doesn’t have another start before a decision is made. Freddy Garcia is Sunday’s scheduled starter.
“Our idea is to pare things down, but you wait to see what happens tomorrow; you wait to see what happens Sunday,” Girardi said. “I don’t really have to make a decision until Monday. We can prepare guys to start, but I don’t have to make a decision. I’m more worried about tonight.”
Tonight CC Sabathia will try to bounce back against Tampa Bay after allowing a season-high seven runs against the Red Sox.
“Whether it’s in a bounce-back (game) or not a bounce-back, I expect him to be really good,” Girardi said.
There will also be a rematch between Jeter and David Price, who served up that homer for his 3,000th hit here on July 9.
“It was a special day right before the All-Star break when Jete and Price matched up,” Girardi said. “It ended up being a great day for our club as well, a 5-4 win.”