Every nine days, Yankees manager Joe Girardi fills out a new card that lists each of his relievers and their recent workload. He’ll update the workload daily, but he builds a new card every week and a half or so.
Today he created his first bullpen card that didn’t have Mariano Rivera listed at the very top.
“Not to write Mo’s name at the top – because I do it in a certain order – was really strange for me,” Girardi said. “That was kind of like, OK, he’s not coming out of the bullpen. I can look on my card as much as I want, and he’s not there. I think writing out that card probably made me realize that it’s different now.”
It was different. As Peter Botte brilliantly wrote on Twitter, it wasn’t Enter Sandman, it was Enter Strand-man. Dave Robertson loaded the bases on two walks and a single, but he struck out Carlos Pena for his first save of the post-Rivera Era.
“I was thinking, ‘Jeez, you better not blow your first one,’” Robertson said. “‘You better not blow your first opportunity or Mo might come in here and smack you around.’”
It was an adventure, but Girardi has often joked — as he did tonight — that Robertson is never comfortable unless the bases are loaded. Robertson had three walks all season before he walked two tonight, but the end result was the same.
“There’s a lot of innings he also goes 1, 2, 3,” Girardi said. “It seems that a lot of the bases-loaded jams are ones that I’ve brought him into, not necessarily ones that he’s created himself. I think as time goes on he’ll get more and more comfortable. Obviously the first one at home, people are used to seeing Mo come out, but I’m sure there were some nerves. He didn’t show it, but I’m sure he’ll get more comfortable as time goes on.”
Robertson joked — at least a think he was joking — that he was more nervous thinking about the crowd of reporters gathered around his locker than thinking about closing out a game without a Rivera safety net. This is the new reality of the Yankees. Without Rivera, the ninth inning falls to Robertson, and pretty or not, he got the job done.
“What I think is Mo probably would have thrown 12 pitches, broke a bat and we would have been gone 20 minutes ago,” Robertson said.
• Ivan Nova was brilliant for a while and shaky for a while, but striking out Jose Molina with two on and two out in the seventh made this a terrific start. He finished with seven innings, two runs, eight strikeouts and his fourth win of the season. A hit by Molina might have put Nova in line for the loss. Instead he remained undefeated in his career against the Rays (3-0 with a 3.26 ERA vs. Tampa Bay).
• Girardi on the decision to leave Nova in to finish the seventh: “It was his game. He had a great rhythm going until the fifth inning. Then he got a little out of rhythm, but I still liked the way he was throwing the baseball and I felt he was going to get an out. I liked the way he was throwing the baseball and I just felt like he was going to get an out. I liked his stuff and I felt like he was going to get it done.”
• Nova on the home run pitch to Molina an inning earlier: “I was trying to be perfect with that pitch. I knew he was going to swing; he’s a free swinger. What I have to do in that situation is bounce it. If you don’t swing, it don’t matter, it’s just one ball. The slider stayed in the middle.”
• Although the Molina homer came on the slider, Nova loved his slider today. “I felt really comfortable with it,” he said. “It’s a pitch I had after the second half last year.”
• Robertson has done a better job limiting his walks this season, and his control wasn’t far off tonight. He threw a first-pitch strike to every hitter, but he missed with pitches after getting ahead. “It didn’t really feel any different (pitching the ninth),” he said. “I was trying to do the same thing I’ve been doing, which is to pound the strike zone, get strike one and go from there. I kept getting strike one but couldn’t make a pitch after it. That’s why I ended up getting walks and gave up a hit to Rodriguez, because I didn’t really make a good pitch. I left a ball down the middle. I’m going to have to focus in and make better pitches next time.”
• Raul Ibanez had hit 15th career multi-homer game. He has two career hits against both James Shields and Burke Badenhop. All four of those hits are home runs. “I just tried not to do too much,” he said. “Just tried to put an easy swing on the ball, fortunately I caught them pretty good and they went out of the park.”
• Brett Gardner went 2-for-3 in his rehab game with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre today. He started in left field and hit leadoff in the first game of a doubleheader. Manny Banuelos started that game and allowed one run in five innings. Perhaps most importantly, he walked none while striking out three.
• Curtis Granderson hit his team-leading 10th home run of the season. He has 51 homers in the past two years, tied with Matt Kemp for the most in the Majors over that stretch. He was hitless in his previous 18 at-bats against Shields before going deep in a 10-pitch at-bat.
• Today was Girardi’s 400th win as the manager of the Yankees. “To me it’s more important that we won the game,” Girardi said. “It’s one of the teams that we’re chasing right now, and I know there’s a long ways to go, but the way we played in Tampa, we weren’t real pleased and it’s a good win.”
Associated Press photos