Throughout this postseason, Joe Girardi has talked about the bigger picture. Yes, key pieces of the lineup were struggling, but the Yankees best chance of winning rested on trusting those everyday players to get it turned around. Seven games wasn’t much of a sample size, and Girardi would stick with the players who got him here.
That changed today.
“I laugh because if I stay the same people say, what are you doing?” Girardi said. “You’ve got to make some changes. People are going to have their opinions all along on what our lineup is, but we’ve moved our lineup around before. I’ve got Chavy playing today, and I did it in Game 5 (of the division series). We weren’t panicking then. We’re not panicking, but we’re trying to create some runs and scratch some runs across.”
Alex Rodriguez is sitting for the second time this postseason. He’s also been pulled for a pinch hitter three times, and Girardi could point to extended struggles as a reason for Rodriguez to sit against right-handers. Tonight he’s sitting Nick Swisher — red hot at the end of the regular season, hitting .154 in the postseason — in favor of Brett Gardner, who has three big league at-bats since April.
“I’d toyed with it a couple of times about playing him and I stuck with the guys that have played the whole year and had at-bats, a lot of at-bats,” Girardi said. “But I just felt like now I’m going to give him a shot.”
Why not sit Curtis Granderson, who’s postseason numbers are worse than Swisher’s? Girardi said it’s all about defense. This is a huge outfield, and Phil Hughes is a fly-ball pitcher, and by playing Granderson, Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki the Yankees have an elite defensive outfield.
“We’re going to put a little bit more speed in there,” Giradi said. “Hoping that Gardy can ignite us a little bit and put some tough at-bats early in the game on Verlander and try to get his pitch count up. We had him get four or five live at-bats (during a sim game) yesterday, that’s what we did, and he swung the bat well and we got him in there. You look at this field, and you look at the type of pitcher Hughesy is: Hughes is a fly-ball guy, so we’ve got a lot of speed in our outfield.”
• Why Eduardo Nunez over Jayson Nix? Girardi cited three things: Speed, Nunez’s 1-for-3 career against Verlander, and the fact that a fly-ball pitcher limits the concerns about infield defense. “Nuney’s had some pretty good at-bats off of Verlander,” Girardi said. “Even though it’s a few, he’s had some pretty good at-bats. … Verlander may not have thought some of the guys were going to be in there, but I don’t think it’s really going to make him change a whole lot. If they get on it might change him a little bit, though.”
• Speaking of shortstop, Derek Jeter saw the hand-and-ankle specialist in North Carolina today, but Girardi had no update on the plan for him. For whatever it’s worth, Jim Leyland said this pregame: “I find no pleasure at all, trust me when I tell you this, in the fact that Derek Jeter is not playing in this series. I mean, I wanted him to play in this series. The whole nation wanted him to play in this series, and it’s a sad thing. But it is what it is, and at the right time, I will find my moment to talk to him.”
• Girardi had no comment on Swisher’s comments about being disappointed by the fans at Yankee Stadium. “I was made aware of it today,” he said. “I think what you have in our room is you do have some frustration that we all have to learn how to deal with and try to deal with it and try to put it besides, but beyond that, I’m not really going to comment.”
• Girardi also would not respond to questions about the New York Post story that Rodriguez was trying to pick up women from the dugout during the late innings of Game 1. Girardi said neither the Swisher comments nor the Rodriguez story had any impact on his lineup decisions today.
• Girardi said he spoke to both Swisher and Rodriguez before posting the lineup. “These guys want to be in there, and I understand that,” Girardi said. “Like I said, these are hard decisions, but they’re decisions that I felt I needed to make.”
• The bullpen is rested and Girardi said he won’t hesitate to bring in a reliever tonight. “My guys are a little bit better rested,” he said. “Some of them had a couple of days off, which really helps. Our bullpen is fully loaded.”
• Girardi got into Detroit last night after attending his father’s funeral yesterday. “Tough day, but it was a good day,” he said.
• Win tonight, then the Yankees get to pitch CC Sabathia tomorrow. Win tonight and tomorrow, and the series is tied at two games apiece. “We’ve got to win today,” Girardi said. “I think it changes the feeling in the clubhouse. I think it’s important. I’ve been part of being down 2-0 before and coming back, and we talked about, just win one game. Win one game, then let’s see where we’re at.”
Associated Press photos