Joe Girardi said he woke up this morning feeling no different than any other day. He didn’t hear from anyone in the Yankees front office, didn’t change his daily routine. It was just another day, except this one came with the possibility of elimination looming large in tonight’s game.
“You understand that,” Girardi said. “And you think about how hard you worked. With the players, how hard they worked all year long. You don’t want it to end today. You don’t ever want it to end until it’s the last out of the World Series that you get. And that’s hard if it does.”
On the mound, the Yankees have A.J. Burnett, the team’s embattled starter who had a bit of a resurgence in September but ultimately finished with another disappointing season. The Yankees didn’t plan to have him start a game today, but Friday’s rain forced them to use a four-man rotation.
“I’m not underestimating him a bit,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “He’s got great stuff. A.J. Burnett is capable of going out and throwing a two-hitter tonight. I know that. He has great stuff. You know the scenario is — this is a good situation for A.J., I think, on this stage tonight. People are hot and cold about A.J. and everything. Not us. We know what a great talent he is. If he gets it going, he can wipe you out. We’re very concerned about it.”
Girardi said it’s hard to say how long or short his leash will be. CC Sabathia got into trouble in last night’s third inning, and Girardi it’s “very possible you pull him” if Burnett has a similar third inning tonight.
Phil Hughes is available for roughly 50 pitches. Freddy Garcia has been told to be ready. Ivan Nova is available if things get “crazy” and the Yankees absolutely need innings.
“I don’t think there’s no exact science,” Girardi said. “You look at how (Burnett)’s pitching, getting outs. You can walk a guy, get a double play and then roll. You’ve just got to manage the game, and if you think there’s a time you need to pull him or you think there’s a time you leave him in, you go with your gut.”
• As he so often does, Girardi said he trusts his players who have track records. That’s why the lineup remains unchanged despite struggles by Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira. “Everyone wants to throw stuff out, but it’s a couple of games,” Girardi said. “Adrian Beltre was 0-for-9 before today. Ron Washington didn’t move him, and he hit three homers. I don’t think you can make too much of a few games. You (can’t) start shaking up your lineup. These guys have done it all year long, and you expect them to do it.”
• Girardi on Mark Teixeira: “I think he’s just missed some balls in this series, I do. I think he’s had some pretty good swings and I think his at-bats have been pretty good. I thought he missed a ball the other day at home, I thought he hit a ball hard yesterday. I think sometimes you can get caught up in the numbers and not necessarily look at the at-bats. I think his at-bats have been OK.”
• Basically, the Girardi quote is the exact same for Swisher.
• Asked about Derek Jeter’s late-inning outs the past two games, Girardi pointed to the guy on the mound. “That’s why they get paid the big bucks, the closers, to get those big outs,” Girardi said.
• Girardi called the mood in the clubhouse “loose and relaxed” and said he felt no need to address the team before tonight’s game. “It’s not like I have a bunch of kids,” he said. “I have guys that understand what this is about.”
• The only pitcher no available tonight is CC Sabathia. “If he could throw right-handed he’d be available,” Girardi said. “If he was Mr. Venditte, he’d be available.”
• Nova threw a bullpen yesterday to prepare for a Game 4 start. “If you get in a crazy game you might have to (use him tonight),” Girardi said. “Then I’ll figure it out Thursday.”
• Obviously Hughes is the go-to long man tonight, but Girardi said he won’t necessarily got to Hughes first if Burnett struggles. “You might choose to bring someone in who’s used to coming into the middle of the inning a little more,” Girardi said. “That’s a decision I’ll have to make. I’ll look at some things and who they’re facing.”
• In case you missed it, Texas wrapped up the other division series this afternoon. If the Yankees come back in this series, they’ll head for an ALCS rematch against the Rangers.
Associated Press photos