There are so many things that we can talk about from today’s game — the Yankees’ inability to string wins together of late, their decreasing lead in the division, Chris Dickerson’s tremendous first game back — but much of the focus after the game was on Girardi’s decision to leave Phil Hughes in to face Mark Reynolds with two on and no one out in the top of the sixth.
“I thought that was Hughsie’s guy to get out, and he didn’t do it,” Girardi said after the 8-3 loss to the Orioles on Sunday cut his team’s lead in the AL East back down to two games.
As things were unraveling for Hughes in the sixth with the Yankees clinging to a one-run lead, Girardi decided to stick with the right-hander to face the red-hot Mark Reynolds. The Orioles’ first baseman had hit a solo homer off of Hughes just one inning prior, and when Hughes hung a breaking ball with two men on in Reynolds’ next at-bat, he was all over it.
With left-handed hitter Chris Davis on deck, Girardi said that he wanted to leave Hughes in for Reynolds so that lefty Boone Logan could come onto face Davis. The idea was not to burn through too many relievers in one inning, but Girardi ended up using a total of seven pitchers out of the bullpen – including five in the eighth inning alone.
After the game, the usually mild-mannered Girardi defended his decision as adamantly as I’ve ever seen him.
“That was my decision to leave him in there,” Girardi said. “He struck him out and he had given up a home run to him. Reynolds is a guy who is going to strikeout his share, and there are different things that you can do to him. He hung a breaking ball. My other choice is to bring (Cody) Eppley in there, and then to bring in Booney for the left-hander, and then I have to bring in another right-hander. I felt better leaving Hughsie in against Reynolds than what I would have done after Booney. If it’s one out, it’s a different story. But there was nobody out.”
There’s no reason to sugarcoat it — those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I wasn’t a big fan of this decision. I tweeted it before Hughes had even thrown a pitch to Reynolds. But more so than the fact that Reynolds had been all over Hughes in his previous at-bat, much of the postgame chatter revolved around the notion that, if Girardi didn’t want to use three relievers in one inning, why was he willing to use five in the eighth?
“They’re never going to perfect, but you need them to get big outs,” Girardi said of his bullpen. “You put them in situations to try and be successful. Sometimes, it doesn’t work.”
• Here’s Hughes on his approach against Reynolds in the sixth: “I was trying to slow him down. He hit a fastball mistake out over the plate the first time, and I started him off with a slider on the first pitch. The breaking ball I wanted to try and get down away from him, but I left it over the middle.”
• It really was interesting to see how quickly the situation turned sour for Hughes. He had looked sharp early, striking out six while allowing just one run through five innings. But you could just sense that he lost whatever it was that was working during that sixth inning, and the O’s starting hitting some balls hard. Nate McLouth led off with a walk, Adam Jones singled, and then Matt Wieters had an RBI single leading up to Reynolds’ three-run blast. “The wheels just came off there,” Hughes said. “A lot of pitches were finding the middle of the plate, and everything was flat.”
• Prior to that inning, it was Dickerson who was the story of the game. He went down and crushed a tough pitch into the right field seats in his first at-bat for a two-run homer, and also walked and scored the Yankees’ third and final run in the fifth. “No, not really,” Dickerson said confidently when asked if he was surprised that he hit a homer in his first at-bat of the season with the Yankees. “I was just trying to put a good swing on it. I was swinging the bat well before I got called up.”
• Dickerson also made an incredible catch in the seventh to rob Adam Jones of a home run. He certainly looked comfortable playing center field. “I was looking at Raul (Ibanez) and we thought it would be a spark to rally back,” Dickerson said. “But it’s a funny game.”
• Girardi was non-committal when asked if Dickerson had earned himself more playing time. “I’ll worry about my lineup tomorrow,” he said.
• The Yankees best chance to get back in the game came in the bottom of the seventh when they had two men on with one out, but Derek Jeter grounded into an inning ending double play. Earlier in the inning, there was some buzz in the press box about Girardi’s decision to pinch-hit for Dickerson with Andruw Jones. On paper, it made sense because the left-handed Randy Wolf was in the game pitching for the O’s. But with the type of game that Dickerson was having, it just didn’t feel right to take him out — especially considering Jones’ recent struggles. “You’re thinking about a righty against a lefty hitting a two-run homer, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “And if he brings on Ayala, (Jones) has had a lot of success against him as well. That’s what you’re looking at.”
• Things really got ugly for the Yankees in the eighth. Girardi made four pitching changes in that inning, with Joba Chamberlain giving up two runs and Derek Lowe allowing one. Joba has been terrible since returning to the team, surrendering at least one run in six of his nine appearances. Marc Carig of The Star-Ledger and I were talking, and we couldn’t recall one positive outing that he’s had since his return. Lowe has been even worse, allowing at least a run in five of his last six appearances. “You’re not going to be perfect every time, and you have to understand that it’s going to take time to get back,” Chamberlain said. “It’s frustrating, but you can’t give up now.”
• Girardi confirmed after the game that A-Rod will be in the lineup for tomorrow’s series opener against the Rays. He wouldn’t say whether he’ll DH or play third. “We can use his bat,” he said. “That’s for sure.”
• Here is Girardi’s response when he was asked about his level of concern. The Yankees haven’t won back-to-back games since taking three in a row against Texas on August 13-15. “I’m asked everyday what my level of concern is,” he said. “The concern is that you play better baseball; not where you are in the standings right now, because we’re still in control of our own destination.”
• I’ll give the final word to Hughes, who was asked if the team can bounce back from its recent struggles: “It’s what we’ve been doing all year,” he said. “In the beginning of the year, everyone wanted to try to get us to panic. It didn’t happen then, and it’s not going to happen now.”
Associated Press photos