There was a point in the season — it wasn’t so long ago, and it wasn’t limited to a game or two — when the Yankees looked awful against left-handed pitchers. Alex Rodriguez was hurt, then Mark Teixeira went down. Andruw Jones wasn’t hitting, and neither were the Steve Pearce and Casey McGehee fill-ins. Ichiro Suzuki hadn’t gotten hot yet, Robinson Cano’s splits were surprisingly bad, and the Yankees had learned to limit Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez’s at-bats to right-handers.
Tonight, they’re facing a lefty, and a guy with 43 home runs is batting eighth.
“Our lineup’s deep, and we got some guys back,” Girardi said. “Against the lefty, we put (Granderson) in the eighth slot. This is a guy who’s produced a lot of runs for us, and we feel we’re pretty deep. … I think Tex makes a big difference in that. Ichiro had a great month against lefties in September. Swish is starting to hit lefties again, and Alex has hit them all year for the most part. Jeet hits them. So I think we’re a different lineup. And Russell’s really swung the bat, and it helps.”
1. Rodriguez and Teixeira have good numbers against lefties this season — yes, even Rodriguez — and when they were hurt, it made Cano’s vLHP struggles all the more noticeable. Getting those two healthy brings some middle-of-the-lineup punch back into the mix.
2. Ichiro came to the Yankees with horrible numbers against left-handers, but his down-the-stretch surge included significant improvement against lefties. He’s been wildly successful against them with the Yankees — .397/.406/.574 — which keeps Jones out of the lineup, and which lengthens the lineup. If Ichiro is good enough to bat second, Nick Swisher can stay in an RBI spot, and Martin can add on-base percentage and slugging percentage to the bottom third.
3. Second chances are good. Eduardo Nunez wasn’t playing much when he first got his September call-up, but as the Yankees slowly gave up on Jones, they opened some DH at-bats for a guy who can hit but can’t always field. Nunez can be a dynamic player, and his bat is especially interesting at the bottom of this order. There’s a reason he made the postseason roster, and it’s for games like this.
“He’s done a good job in these situations,” Girardi said. “He’s swung the bat pretty well against left handers for us lately, so that’s why we have him here.”
• The Yankees faced the Orioles 18 times this season. Andy Pettitte didn’t pitch in any of those games. “It is unusual when you face a team 18 times and your Game 2 starter hasn’t seen them all year,” Girardi said. Is that an advantage for Pettitte tonight? “I sure hope so,” Girardi said.
• Didn’t come up after last night’s game, and it probably goes without saying, but Ichiro was running on his own when he tried to steal third base in the first inning last night. “You’ve got to be safe, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. Did he talk to Ichiro about it? “He knows,” Girardi said. “I could see it when he came in. He understands the game. This guy has played the game a long time. I could see it in his face. I wasn’t going to put anything on top of that.”
• Why would such a veteran player make such an easily understood, well-known mistake? “If you can get there, go ahead,” Girardi said. “But sometimes players make reads that aren’t as good as others. It happens.”
• Girardi said he was planning to send CC Sabathia back to the mound in last night’s ninth inning even if the game were still tied. Not that it matters, just kind of interesting.
• Random story from the New York Post, which is reporting that Maryland state troopers doing security during last night’s game actually asked Nick Swisher and Derek Jeter for autographs during last night’s ninth inning. “That I didn’t see,” Girardi said. “My focus is on the field. That shouldn’t happen.”
• Girardi said he hasn’t decided whether the Yankees will have a workout tomorrow. They might just take a full day off. If they do workout, it will likely be in the late afternoon.
Nate McLouth LF
J.J. Hardy SS
Chris Davis RF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Mark Reynolds 1B
Jim Thome DH
Manny Machado 3B
Robert Andino 2B
Associated Press photo