Joe Girardi was hoping the pitchout would do the trick. With two outs in the eighth, the Yankees were confident Rajai Davis would try to steal, and Girardi hoped a pitchout would do the trick. If it had worked, Dave Robertson would have gotten the third out of the inning, and Rivera would have been on schedule for a three-out save.
But it didn’t work, so Rivera entered the game a little early.
“I don’t think there’s any arguing who the greatest relief pitcher of all time is, and that’s what I went with,” Girardi explained to YES Network. “… (Robertson) has been there all year for us, I know that. Not necessarily (hard to make the decision), no. You think about things you might do in the game, then you make your decisions and you stick with them. … Mo’s been in that situation so many times. You talk about experience, experience, experience, and that’s what he’s down there for.”
Rivera got a ground ball in the eighth, pitched out of trouble in the ninth, and finished off his 44th save of the season. If the move was understandable because of the man who finished off the game, it was also unusual because of the guy who was pulled. Robertson’s been a trusted setup man for three years, but there’s little wiggle room for anyone these days.
“I thought once I threw the pitch out I was staying in to get Lawrie,” Robertson said. “But after I saw him coming, I knew I was coming out. It is what it is. You’ve got Mo back there. He’s pretty good.”
In the first five months of the season, Rivera had no saves of more than three outs. In the past two weeks, he’s had three such saves.
“We have to be prepared for that,” Rivera said. “I know these games are crucial, so everybody has to be ready because the call can come any time. … It’s a huge game. Huge.”
• One pivotal non-move by Girardi came in the top of the eighth when Vernon Wells was allowed to bat against right-handed Steve Delabar. “I just felt good about Vernon getting the run in,” Girardi said. “Vernon’s been swinging the bat pretty decent, and I just felt that he’s a guy that can drive a ball, hit a fly ball, and get the run in.”
• Here’s what Wells said about the at-bat during a televised on-field interview: “I had some good swings today and he allowed me to get up in that spot. Thankfully I got the opportunity, and I’m glad I could repay him for it.”
• When the Blue Jays sent a pinch hitter to bunt with two on in the ninth, the Yankees met on the mound to discuss the play. They positioned themselves for an out at third base, and it worked when the bunt went to Lyle Overbay. “Even though we talk about it, we still have to execute it,” Rivera said. Turned out to be a huge play.
• Speaking of big plays: It was Brendan Ryan who chased J.A. Happ with a leadoff single in the eighth, and it was Curtis Granderson who kept the rally going with a single off lefty Aaron Loup. The RBIs came in three quick at-bats from Robinson Cano, Alfonso Soriano and Wells. “It happened in a hurry,” Wells said. “Four pitches happened and we got the lead.”
• Between them, Phil Hughes and David Huff allowed three runs through seven innings, with all three runs coming on a pair of home runs. Hughes allowed a two-run shot to Colby Rasmus and Huff surrendered a solo shot to Ryan Goins. Together, it was a quality start for the fifth-starter tandem.
• Hughes was pitching fairly well before the home run on a misplaced fastball, but clearly the Yankees are going into his starts fully expecting to make a move at the first sign of trouble. “I was told beforehand there was going to be a similar situation to the last start in Baltimore,” Hughes said. “… This is the situation I’m in, and I’m trying to embrace it as much as I can.”
• Final word goes to Wells: “Tonight (gives me hope). When nothing’s going our way, just in the blink of an eye we take the lead again. Hopefully this is something we can build off of and get back to playing the baseball we’re capable of playing.”
Associated Press photos