After he took heat last night for using Luis Ayala in the ninth inning of a three-run game, Joe Girardi was asked today whether he thought about skipping CC Sabathia tonight and pushing his ace to Tuesday’s Game 4. In theory, the strategy would have conceded that tonight’s game is a tough one to win, and Sabathia would help the Yankees chances in a potential must-win Game 4.
Girardi’s response had more to do with Game 5.
“We felt he was ready to pitch, and if he’s ready to pitch, we’re going to use him,” Girardi said. “The other thing is, you figure you can use him in the bullpen maybe if you need him (in Game 5) if he feels OK on Thursday. And it lines up for next series. I just felt that he was ready, and I was going with him.”
So we have the much-anticipated matchup that was supposed to shape this series in the opener, and will instead determine which team faces elimination tomorrow.
“I probably feel the same way the Yankees felt when they had CC on the mound for the opening game in front of that crowd in New York,” Jim Leyland said. “It’s a great match-up. It’s one that everybody was anxiously awaiting in Game 1. It didn’t turn out. You always worry about the hype and all the stuff that goes on and postseason is pretty draining really, to be honest with you… I’m sure there will be some adrenaline flowing.”
Girardi admitted that, had he known it was going to rain in the second inning, he never would have sent Sabathia to the mound in Game 1. He would have saved his ace for Game 2, or for multiple innings after a rain delay.
“Probably not, no,” Girardi said. “They told us there might be some light rain, and that’s what they expected. Obviously that changed dramatically.”
This series has changed, and tonight’s the biggest game yet.
• Girardi once again committed to Alex Rodriguez in the cleanup spot, despite the fact he’s hitless in the first two games and hasn’t done much since returning from knee and thumb injuries. “I don’t make too much of yesterday,” Girardi said. “I know everything gets magnified when you have a zero in front of your name, people are going to talk about it, but I thought he had good at-bats the first game. The second game, their starter shut us down.”
• Was Girardi surprised to hear the Yankee Stadium boos for Rodriguez yesterday? “I’m not surprised because I think our fans want us to win so badly,” Girardi said. “I think they always expect big things from Alex. With his name and the things that he’s accomplished, there’s high expectations.”
• Russell Martin his fine after last night’s hit by pitch. “No complaints from him,” Girardi said.
• No matter what happens tonight, the Yankees are 100 percent committed to A.J. Burnett starting tomorrow’s game. That’s going to happen whether it’s a potential clincher or a potential elimination. “Who would I go to, Mo?” Girardi said.
• Brett Gardner didn’t finish the season especially strong, but Girardi said that had no impact on his decision to pinch hit Eric Chavez last night. “I was just taking a chance with Chavez,” Girardi said. “What he’s done with runners in scoring position for us this year has been really, really good, and you’ve got a short right field fence that he’s more than capable of hitting is over. I took a shot.”
• Girardi was also once again defending the decision to pitch Luis Ayala last night. “If I used Soriano or Robertson, they would say why did you use him?” Girardi said. “That’s the nature of this. You calculate what’s going to happen. You’re not always going to be right, you don’t have a crystal ball, but being down there runs, I can go with these guys earlier and for longer today and tomorrow.”
• As for the decision to have Freddy Garcia pitch to Miguel Cabrera in the sixth: “He had struck him out the time before and he had struck out Martinez twice and gotten Avila once or twice,” Girardi said. “There is no great matchup for Miguel Cabrera; it’s not like you bring in anyone and it’s a guarantee. That’s how good this guy is. I took a shot with him.”
• Leyland on his decision to go with a different lineup than he had for Game 1. “To be honest with you, neither Jhonny or Raburn have hit CC at all,” he said.
• No one seemed especially wrapped up in Jose Valverde’s comments after last night’s game that the division series would be won by the Tigers before it came back to New York. “It might excite a few (players),” Girardi said. “But the one thing I said is you can’t let your emotions take you out of your game.”
• Leyland compared Valverde’s comments to the pregame videos shown at Yankee Stadium. “He admitted it was tongue in cheek when he said it,” Leyland said. “Second of all, I didn’t take offense to the video at Yankee Stadium when they were talking about the World Series, like we were the junior varsity and they were getting ready for the World Series. I didn’t take offense to that at all. In fact, I thought it was great. That’s what they should be talking about. I don’t really think that.”
Associated Press photo