Archive for the ‘Notes’
That last at-bat said a lot about the state of this Yankees lineup. Raul Ibanez hit .197 with two extra-base hits against left-handers this season, yet there was little question his matchup against Phil Coke was about as good as the Yankees were going to get in that situation.
“It’s definitely tough as a ballclub right now,” Ibanez said. “But everything can turn around with one swing of the bat and one inning. Things can turn around. I’ve seen it happen. We’ve all seen it happen. Tomorrow, we’re going to fight. … You have no choice but to fight. Fight all the way back.”
Give the Yankees offense credit for this much: They’ve fought. Eduardo Nunez’s home run off Justin Verlander set the stage for what might have been yet another ninth-inning rally for the Yankees. They had two hits all game before getting three hits in the ninth, putting the tying run in scoring position and getting their most dangerous hitter to the plate.
But the ninth inning hasn’t been their problem. Neither has pitching. And despite two bad plays in tonight’s fifth inning, neither has defense. Joe Girardi has now started every position player on the roster except Chris Stewart. He’s benched Alex Rodriguez, put Brett Gardner in the leadoff spot and dropped Curtis Granderson to eighth in the order. Yet the second-highest-scoring offense in baseball just can’t hit.
As a team, the Yankees are hitting .200/.265/.317 in the postseason.
“If we played five, 10, 15, 20 more games, there’s no way we could continue to struggle this way for an extended period of time,” Gardner said. “For whatever reason, we’re not getting the job done right now. You look at it from the other side and our pitching has been phenomenal. … It’s not like we’re losing 12-4 or anything like that. They’re giving us a real good chance to win and we’re just not getting the job done.”
Tomorrow, the Yankees have their ace on the mound, but tonight the Yankees pitching staff allowed just two runs through nine innings. How much better could Sabathia have done on short rest, and how much better can he do tomorrow? It’s the lineup that put the Yankees in this situation, and the lineup is going to have to get them out of it.
“You look at this and it could be a number of different things besides 0-3 for us,” Joe Girardi said. “We have gotten good pitching all the way throughout the playoffs, and we will need it again tomorrow if we want to live another day. … I am (surprised), but you have to put it all behind you. What has happened has happened, and you have to find a way to score runs tomorrow. And you have your ace on the mound, and you see what happens. Win a game tomorrow, and then let’s see what happens.”
• Perhaps most puzzling of all the Yankees offense struggles is Robinson Cano, who snapped an 0-for-29 streak with his two-out single in the ninth. “I wasn’t thinking about that,” Cano said. “You just have to do what you have to do to get on base, especially when you want to keep the inning alive. You need to get a hit or get a walk. Get on base however.”
• Obviously a big home run by Nunez. Given the way some of these games have gone, it really felt like that might be the kind of thing to wake up this offense. “I know he wants to get me out with some breaking ball pitch,” Nunez said. “I was looking for it down, and he missed up. … I thought we would come back. After the homer, just down one run, nobody out. I think it’s going to be exciting and win the game, but we lost.”
• Coke showed Ibanez a lot of fastballs in that final at-bat, then he got him with a curveball. It was the first offspeed pitch of the bat. “Is it surprising?” Ibanez said. “He’s a good pitcher. He had thrown a lot of fastballs and he made a good pitch. I didn’t hit it. I didn’t get it done.”
• Verlander only struck out three, a surprisingly low number considering his overall dominance. The Yankees actually seemed to have better at-bats than they’ve had in a long time, but until Nunez homered, they’d put just two men on base. “You’re fighting for your life out there,” Russell Martin said. “Whatever you can to try and get on base, make something happen.”
• Mark Teixera on the unusual version of Verlander the Yankees faced tonight: “I don’t want to say he let us hit it, but he wanted to live on the corners. Sometimes he tries to strike you out every at bat. Tonight we didn’t really strike out a lot but he was living on the corners. He pitched really well.”
• Phil Hughes said it was near the end of the third inning that his lower back began to feel stiff. He didn’t think it affected his pitches, but the fourth inning was going badly and the Yankees didn’t take any chances. “It was just the circumstances of the game, and what was going on,” Hughes said. “I think they just wanted to make the best move for the team, not necessarily for my health at the time.”
• Martin said he thought Hughes’ stuff was good, and obviously Hughes made some key pitches before the Delmon Young home run. “In that fourth inning I was having a tough time finishing, especially breaking balls,” Hughes said. “That one that hung to Delmon Young was just a spinner that broke back over the plate. That, along with the walk, things just weren’t going well.”
• Girardi seemed to indicate that it’s at least possible Hughes will end up on the disabled list. It would obviously raise some rotation questions down the road, but down the road might not happen. “We’ll see what we have tomorrow which will determine what we do with him,” Girardi said.
• Martin jammed his thumb on his last at-bat. Chris Stewart almost caught the eighth because Martin’s thumb was numb, but the feeling came back and he fully expects to play tomorrow. “If I couldn’t throw the ball, obviously they would have taken me out of the game,” Martin said. “I should be fine.”
• Martin could have hit in the ninth, but the Yankees were going to replace him with Nick Swisher. “They were going to Swish and I got no problem with that,” Martin said.
• Speaking of pinch hitting, as you might expect, Girardi didn’t pinch hit for Ibanez in the ninth because he knew the Tigers would go to right-hander Benoit if Alex Rodriguez came into the game. “Raul has come up in a lot of big situations,” Girardi said. “You know, you go back to September 1 and he has come through for us, and I felt great about him up there.”
• The Yankees left side of the infield was Nunez and Eric Chavez, but it was Nunez who made a terrific play to save a run in the fifth and Chavez who made the error that led to a run. “I got caught in between,” Chavez said. “When he hit the ball, I thought it was a lot softer, and I thought I had time to step back, and it had too much topspin. If I would have known it was hit harder, I probably would have come up and played it on a short hop. … It wasn’t a tough ball where I couldn’t make a decision. I had to make a decision, and it was just the wrong one.”
• Speaking of bad plays in the fifth inning, Curtis Granderson took a bad route on Cabrera’s RBI double that stood as the difference in the game. “I felt like I had a read, but it just ended up going away from me and going towards the gap,” Granderson said. “Prior to it, I was talking to Gardner about the wind, how balls are getting knocked down, but a ball that ended up staying low, like that particular one, just ended up cutting through the wind.”
• As far as I know, Rodriguez didn’t speak postgame about being benched again. Swisher did and said he was taking at-bats in the indoor cage every half inning to stay ready. “You want to be in there,” Swisher said. “But Skip is the manager and I back his decision. Bring a little speed in the lineup with Gardy coming in there. I’m going to come back to the ballpark and be ready to go tomorrow.”
• Swisher said he hasn’t been told whether he’ll play tomorrow. Girardi said he won’t decide until tomorrow. “We’re just trying to find a lineup that works,” Swisher said. “I thought it was a great lineup. I wasn’t in it, but you’ve got to back your guys and support your teammates. The guys played well. We just came up a little short.”
• Gardner didn’t have any hits to show for it, but he didn’t look overmatched in his first big league start since April. He said all four balls that he put in play were changeups. “I felt great getting thrown right back in there and seeing live pitching,” he said. “I felt great in the box today. I thought I had a couple of good at-bats and I saw the ball really well. When he gets ahead in the count and has the stuff that he has, he can kind of have his way with you.”
• Speaking of Gardner, has Teixeira thought about bunting against the shift to try to spark something? “That’s not going to happen,” he said. “I tried to have some fun with you guys in spring training and said I was going lay some down. I’ve never bunted. I don’t think I’ve bunted since I was 11 years old. It’s the same thing if we needed a lefty to get someone out, I’m not gonna go in the bullpen and start throwing left-handed. That’s not what I do. I hit a couple of balls hard off Verlander, but me laying a bunt down is not gonna happen. That’d be desperate.”
• Final word goes to Girardi: “The thing that you do is you keep encouraging the guys and you keep telling them, ‘Hey, find a way, find a way to get it done.’ And, you know, the one thing about this group that I’m very proud of is they have overcome a lot this year, and there is nothing that has come easy for us. You can start with the first three games of the year, we got swept. And it has been a battle the whole year, and they have found a way to get it done. And that’s what we’re going to have to do.”
Associated Press photos
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
If you think about it, what was Jayson Nix doing with the Yankees in the first place?
Sure, he’s the team’s starting shortstop now, but think about when he signed. This winter, Nix chose a team with a loaded, nothing-up-for-grabs infield. He chose a team with a young utility infielder who spent all of last year in the big leagues and had the backup role locked up from the big league day camp opened. Honestly, do you remember a single thing Nix did in spring training? Was he even on the radar?
“One reason I chose to come to sign here obviously was the Yankees expressed a lot of interest in me,” Nix said on a conference call this afternoon. “A strong interest in me, and came after me pretty hard, so I saw that as a good thing. But also there could be an opportunity. I didn’t know for sure if there was, or if there would be with all of the big names, like you said, and established guys that are here. I didn’t know for sure if there would be, but I knew there was a possibility. And I knew they were going to give me a shot, so I wanted to take it. And I thought it might be a good fit.”
Despite Eduardo Nunez being on the roster, the Yankees have committed to the reliable Nix in the wake of Derek Jeter’s broken ankle. He doesn’t have Nunez’s raw tools, but he’s all the things Nunez hasn’t quite become. Reliable. Fundamental. Steady.
He’s played this role with five different big league teams now, and during the division series he went 2-for-3 in his first career postseason start.
“The way Joe has handled my role and communicated with me has been great,” Nix said. “I mean, it’s really made my job a lot easier, so I know what to expect from him and he knows what to expect from me. And it’s really been very smooth. And then at the same time, you know, (Alex Rodriguez) getting hurt and the opportunities I had to play, it has been fairly consistent for my role, so it’s been really great and it’s been easy. I don’t know if “easy” is the right word, but it has been smooth. The way that Joe handled it and the way that Joe handled my situation with me, and me and Chavy talk about it a lot. He made it easy on me. We know what to expect, what to prepare for and what ways we’re going to be used, and it really helps a lot.”
No one wants to get an opportunity this way, but it’s the reality of the game. A lot of doors open because of injuries, and Nix is stepping in.
“I am very disappointed for Derek,” he said. “I hate the fact that he has gone down, and especially with this opportunity to play in these playoffs. I know it’s hard on him. That part I hate it for him. But at the same time, I’m excited for my opportunity to be able to play. And ever since these playoffs started, I’ve really just been kind of itching to get in these games. And I knew most chances I wasn’t going to start many games, or I didn’t know how much I was going to play, but I really just wanted to be in the games. So to have a chance to start and play in these games is very exciting, and I’m really enjoying it.”
• Joe Girardi spent the off day in Illinois for his father’s funeral. The Girardi family released this statement this afternoon: “We deeply appreciate the overwhelming support that has been shown to us during this difficult time. Our father would have been touched by all the kindness shown to our family as we mourn his passing. As saddened as we are with his loss, we take solace in knowing that he lives on through the principles he passed down to us and in the many wonderful memories we have of him.”
• Girardi said over the weekend that a few players asked about attending the funeral and he told them all to stay home and rest.
• On the Michael Kay Show this afternoon, Brian Cashman said it’s still possible Brett Gardner will get an outfield start at some point. “The way our offense is, it is a possibility,” Cashman said. “He deserves consideration considering what is going on right now.”
• The Yankees had no official workout today. Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia each threw a simulated game with Francisco Cervelli catching. Nix, Brett Gardner and Chris Stewart were the hitters.
• Yankees bench coach Tony Pena interviewed for the Red Sox managerial opening today. “Tony is a good baseball guy,” Mark Teixeira said. “One of the guys that played in the game for almost 20 years. As soon as he got out of the game as a player, he went into it as a coach. He knows baseball from both sides, being a catcher, he is the ultimate field general. He has a lot of energy. He has thrown so much batting practice here, I think his arm has slowed down a little bit. I don’t know how much BP he will be throwing if he is the manager. But other than that, you couldn’t ask for a better baseball man.”
• On today’s conference call, Teixeira actually managed to find a positive spin to facing Justin Verlander tomorrow. “It doesn’t matter who you’re facing, as a hitter you want to face familiar pitchers,” Teixeira said. “Even if he happens to be the best pitcher on the planet now, and maybe the best pitcher in the last 10, 15 years. We have played Justin a lot. We won a few games, we lost a few games, and the biggest thing is familiarity. We know what he will do to us. He will throw it 100 miles an hour, fix in a good curveball and a good changeup. And it sounds like a tough job, but we have risen to the occasion.”
• Tomorrow’s starter, Phil Hughes, said it felt good that Girardi stuck with him rather than going to CC Sabathia on short rest. “It’s nice to know the manager and the organization is behind you,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity, and I feel like if we can win this Game 3, we’ll have a good chance with CC going (in Game 4), so it’s nice to have that and have that vote of confidence, but I am still going to have to go out and execute.”
Associated Press photos
It wasn’t when he moved to his left. It wasn’t when he scooped the ball. It wasn’t even when he fell down.
The moment of realization came when Derek Jeter didn’t get up.
“If he’s not getting up, something’s wrong,” Joe Girardi said. “… Even when I went to the field and I was going to carry him in, he said, ‘No, do not carry me.’”
Jeter’s left ankle is broken. The guy who’s been playing on a bruised and battered left ankle for the better part of a month finally suffered an injury he couldn’t dismiss.
“It’s something you can’t play through,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “Doc had to emphasize that because of who he’s talking to.”
Girardi pointed to the front of his ankle, an inch or so above his foot, to describe the exact location of the fracture. Jeter will need three months to recover and is expected to be ready for spring training. But spring training is a long way away, and after tonight, there’s very little that seems within reach.
“The job is to find a way over every obstacle that gets thrown our way,” Cashman said. “We’re in an opportunity with one team standing in our way to get to the World Series. No matter what the circumstances are, whether it’s rain or injuries, we have to find a way to move forward. Do I admit without a doubt this is a big loss? Yes. Is it something that we’re going to allow us to stop dreaming and achieve our goal? No. We’re not going to allow that.”
But my goodness, does the task ever seem like a tall one. The Yankees put together yet another ninth-inning rally, Raul Ibanez hit yet another unthinkable home run, and the Yankees had a chance to steal a win on a night when all hope seemed lost in the eighth inning. There was euphoria, and then there was defeat. As bitter as defeat can be.
“I think some people left us for dead when Mo went down, and here we are in the ALCS,” Girardi said. “And Jeet is going to tell us, ‘Let’s go.’ That’s what he’s going to tell us. I’m sad for him because I know how much he loves to play and play in these type of situation, but he would tell us, ‘Let’s go.’”
But go where? How? With who?
If the Yankees are going to pull this off and make a run at another World Series, they’re going to do it without Mariano Rivera and without Derek Jeter. The only Core Four member still active is the one who was retired last year. A loss like this — after the ninth-inning rally, the 12th-inning defeat, with Jeter unable to pick himself up out of the dirt — it’s as stunning and demoralizing a loss as you can imagine.
“I knew I wasn’t going to hear those words from him,” Girardi said. “There’s been some times where you see him limping pretty bad and I will ask him, ‘Are you okay?’ And he says, ‘I’m great, let’s go.’ That’s exactly what he says to me. He never tells me what’s bothering him, ever, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate his toughness and his grit. It’s, to me, a great example for everyone. … This guy knows how to handle it, and it’s disappointing that we’re not going to have him. But as I said, I know he would say, ‘Let’s go. I’m great.’”
But Jeter wasn’t great, and after a night like this, where do the Yankees go?
• The nuts and bolts of what’s next are clear: Jeter will go on the disabled list, Eduardo Nunez will be activated, and Cashman left no doubt that Jayson Nix will become the Yankees starting shortstop the rest of the way. “It’s a tough loss,” Cashman said. “But it’s not something we’re going to let derail us. It’s tough to lose any important player — and Derek has been obviously as important as anybody — but now he’s been taken out. Nix will go in there, and we have a lot of confidence in Nix.”
• Girardi said the fracture is in a place totally separate from Jeter’s other foot and ankle problems, but it’s hard to imagine this isn’t connected in some way. “It very well could be related,” Cashman said. “He’s been banged up with that foot, so I would think it is related.”
• Jeter will have additional tests, but as of tonight there were no plans for surgery. He might have surgery eventually, but there is only limited information at this point. The Yankees do not believe this is career-threatening. “It’s something the winter will take care of and he’ll be ready for us in spring training,” Cashman said.
• Jeter did not address the media. He got the diagnosis when he was in the trainers room with a small group of people including Cashman, Dr. Christopher Ahmad, Steve Donohue, Billy Eppler and Joe Torre. Jeter’s reaction upon hearing the news? “He didn’t have one,” Cashman said.
• Brett Gardner was among the first to reach Jeter after the injury, but he said there wasn’t much dialogue on the field before Donohue and Girardi got there. “When he went down initially, I thought it looked a little odd,” Gardner said. “And then when I saw he couldn’t get up and he flipped the ball to Robbie Cano — because he knew there was guy at second who could possibly go from third to home — you knew it wasn’t good.”
• Girardi’s postgame press conference was almost nothing but Jeter and was cut short before any real game related questions were asked. In a situation like this, it’s likely Girardi will be asked questions about his bullpen management tomorrow. For tonight, all of the conversation centered on Jeter.
• Girardi did say that he had not addressed the team to officially tell them Jeter’s ankle was broken, but word had spread to most players in the clubhouse. “You feel more sorry for the guys that get hurt, not yourself,” Mark Teixiera said. “You don’t feel sorry for the team, for yourself, you feel sorry for Derek and Mo when they go down and can’t contribute.”
• Just to be clear, both Girardi and Cashman said Alex Rodriguez will not play shortstop.
• Speaking of Rodriguez, he was pulled for a pinch hitter again tonight. “The first at-bat, he had a good at-bat,” Girardi said. “You can look at this game, and Peralta makes an outstanding play. They get a break. And Fister is skinny and I’m still trying to figure out how the ball hit him. There are other pitchers I can understand that (the ball) hit the guy up the middle, but not this guy. We had some bad breaks early, and had a bad break at the end too.”
• The key bullpen decisions that Girardi made tonight: He used Derek Lowe as the first man out of his bullpen, and after Lowe got through Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, he was left in to give up a home run to Delmon Young and a double to Jhonny Peralta. Girardi also elected to pull both Rafael Soriano and Dave Robertson after just one inning. That’s what left David Phelps in the game for the decisive 12th inning.
• To his credit, Phelps was at his locker longer than anyone tonight, ready to answer any questions about his outing. But honestly, what was he going to say about this one? His part of the night was pretty crystal clear.
• Raul Ibanez’s game-tying home run in the ninth was the 114th home run in postseason history in the ninth inning or later that tied the game or gave a team the lead. Ibanez is only the second player to do so three times in his career — the other is Johnny Bench — and Ibanez is the only player to pull it off three times in a single postseason. Ibanez is also the only player with three home runs in the ninth inning or later of a single postseason.
• In 42 previous ALCS matchups, the team that’s won Game 1 has won the series 60 percent of the time. Since the introduction of the seven-game format in 1985, the Game 1 winner has won the series 54 percent of the time. In seven of the past 12 ALCS, the team that lost Game 1 went on to win the series.
• This was only the second ALCS Game 1 to reach the 12th inning. The first was in 1969.
• Miguel Cabrera has reached base safely in all 17 of his postseason games with the Tigers. That’s the second-longest such streak in franchise history behind Hank Greenberg’s 18-game streak from 1934 through 1945.
• Andy Pettitte is the sixth player to appear in a postseason game under the age of 24 and at the age of 40 or older. The others are Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Rickey Henderson, Greg Maddux and Chipper Jones.
• Pettitte on his start: “I felt good tonight. Obviously I wish I could have shut them down and given our guys a chance to get on the board first.”
• On the double that got past Nick Swisher in the 12th, Swisher said he lost the ball in the lights. “I got a great jump on it, man, and it went up in the lights and I just went completely blind,” Swisher said. “It’s a helpless feeling.”
• Jeter’s second-inning single gave him 200 career postseason hits.
• Doug Fister allowed 11 baserunners through 6.1 innings but didn’t allow a run. He’s the first player in postseason history to allow 11 or more runners in fewer than seven innings without allowing a run. The only pitcher to allow 11 or more baserunner in seven innings without allowing a run in a postseason game is Johan Santana, who did so against the Yankees in Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS.
• Final word will go to Teixeira: “We have to have guys step up. That’s kind of been the theme all year. If one team is used to having guys step in to take someone’s place, it’s us. We’ve had to deal with it all year. It’s really disappointing to have Derek out of the lineup. We know how much this game means to him, especially the playoffs mean so much to him. We probably feel more for him than anyone else who would go out.”
Associatd Press photos
Hard to know how much of this lineup is truly based on a gut feeling, how much is based on mending a relationship, and how much is simply one last chance for a player whose career numbers suggest he’s earned that much.
“This is a guy that we really need to get going,” Joe Girardi said. “This is a guy that, 2009, you think about what he did throughout the playoffs. I just believe in my heart that he’s ready to go. I believe he’s going to contribute. We’re going to put him back in there.”
Yes, Alex Rodriguez is back in the lineup against a right-hander. He sat yesterday, he’s playing today, and whether he’ll play tomorrow remains undecided. Rodriguez is 1-for-5 in his regular-season career against Tigers starter Doug Fister, plus 0-for-4 with a walk in last year’s division series. Eric Chavez is 3-for-11 against Fister.
“I make my lineup every morning in my head, really, when I watch the tapes and I watch the films and the at-bats against guys,” Girardi said. “As far as worrying about tomorrow’s lineup, I’m not worried about tomorrow’s lineup. Let’s just be productive today.”
Could Chavez start again this postseason?
“I think it’s possible you see him, sure,” Girardi said.
Rodriguez’s career numbers speak for themselves, and he’s signed for five more years, so it’s hard to blame Girardi for not wanting to destroy that relationship by keeping him on the bench the rest of his postseason. That said, Girardi’s shown that he’s willing to make the move. He’s willing to sit Rodriguez in a big spot, willing to pinch hit for him in the late innings.
Before today’s game, Girardi talked to Rodriguez to let him know the situation, but I can’t help wondering whether the tone of those conversations might change if Rodriguez’s numbers don’t.
“I told him where I was going to hit him and it went good,” Girardi said. “He’s raring to go. Raring to go.”
• The Yankees will go with Hiroki Kuroda on short rest in Game 2, Phil Hughes in Game 3 and CC Sabathia in Game 4. “Someone was possibly going to be off his normal rest,” Girardi said. “This way, it’s only one guy.”
• Kuroda said he was told yesterday that he could start on short rest Sunday. “This is probably the shortest rest that I have ever had in my baseball career,” he said. “But at this point of the season, we can’t really be talking about anything but to win, so I’m just going to prepare myself to win this game, like I always have throughout the season.”
• Whether it was Game 3 on short rest or Game 7 on short rest, Sabathia was only going to be able to start two games this series no matter what. The Yankees decided to keep him properly rested for his first start and keep Hughes on turn. “We thought about (Sabathia in Game 3),” Girardi said. “But you think about how hard he’s worked these two starts. I would rather have him Game 4 fully prepared than maybe short rest in Game 3.”
• Girardi said the Yankees talked about having David Phelps start Game 2 instead of Kuroda. The did not, however, entertain the idea of using Ivan Nova. Says quite a bit about how those two finished the season.
• With no left-handed starters in the Tigers rotation, the Yankees didn’t need Eduardo Nunez to DH this series. That was part of the reason for taking him off the roster and adding Cody Eppley. “With Kuroda coming back on short rest, and some pitchers coming back maybe on short rest, and them not having a left-handed starter, we just felt we’d add a pitcher and take Nuney off,” Girardi said.
• With all right-handers in the Tigers rotation, Girardi said he expects Raul Ibanez to be the everyday DH this series. It’s possible he could use Ibanez in the outfield if the current outfielders continue to struggle, but that doesn’t sound likely. “I’m not completely against it,” Girardi said. “But we signed him to be a DH.”
• Girardi said he’s still not sure Joba Chamberlain will be available today, but he said Chamberlain is “pretty good” and will play catch to determine his status.
• Girardi has moved Nick Swisher down in the order, but it sounds like he has no intention of pulling him from the lineup. “I told him yesterday, I said, ‘Do me a favor, look at all the empty grass out there,’” Girardi said. “‘There’s a lot of green out there. Stop hitting it at people.’ He laughed. I think you have to remind guys. People sometimes get caught up in the numbers instead of the at-bat itself. You have to remind them their swings are good. He just missed hitting a home run, he lined out deep to left field; he’s putting the barrel of the bat to the ball. That’s what you want.”
Austin Jackson CF
Omar Infante 2B
Miguel Cabrera 3B
Prince Fielder 1B
Delmon Young DH
Jhonny Peralta SS
Andy Dirks LF
Avisail Garcia RF
Gerald Laird C
Associated Press photos
Postgame notes: “What I’m here for” • 10.12.12
CC Sabathia was not the Yankees most reliable starter this season. He’s said so himself. He certainly wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t all of those things the Yankees have come expect. He wasn’t all the things that Sabathia expects.
Around here, though, seasons aren’t defined in July and August. Around here, seasons are defined by moments like this.
“It is what I’m here for,” Sabathia said. “It is what I play the game for. I guess I should feel, you know, a little pressure or something like that, but I don’t. I mean, I feel like that every time out. It can be Game 1, it can be Game 15, it don’t matter. You know, I feel like I need to go out and win every time out, and I think that takes a lot of pressure off me, the outside pressure off me. I put so much pressure on myself to go out and perform well that I expect it.”
Three runs qualified as a breakout performance for the Yankees offense, but it wasn’t enough offense to take the pressure off. The bats had already cold this series, and Sabathia had to know that coming into tonight’s all-or-nothing Game 5. The Yankees could hope for a big night from the lineup, but the only thing they could count on was Sabathia.
Through seven innings, Sabathia faced one over the minimum. In the eighth, he got into trouble then left the bases loaded. On the bench before the ninth, there was no conversation with manager Joe Girardi. Sabathia was going back out there, no questions asked.
“He has that confidence and he has that swagger on the mound right now,” Russell Martin said.
The only moment of weakness was followed by his finest hour. That eighth inning seemed to be getting away from him, and the Yankees had Dave Robertson getting loose in the bullpen. Three base hits in the inning, a walk, bases loaded with no outs and the top of the order coming up.
“I think in 2007 my emotions got the best of me definitely in the playoffs, and I didn’t have a good run,” Sabathia said. “But the older I have gotten, the better I have got, I think. … I was trying to back off a little bit and not try to overthrow and leave the ball over the plate (in the eighth). After I got a couple of runners on, that went out the window, and I was back to being fired up and trying to be aggressive with fastballs. Obviously that (backing off) didn’t work, and I was all over the place. So that late in the game, in that situation, I can go ahead and let it go and just be aggressive.”
Controlling emotions and limiting emotions aren’t always the same thing. Sabathia used his when he needed them.
“That performance wasn’t only a tremendous talent, that performance was a tremendous warrior, a tremendous competitor,” Raul Ibanez said. “He willed that to happen.”
• This will be the Yankees 10th ALCS appearance in the past 17 seasons since 1996. What got them there? The rotation went 2-1 with a 2.04 ERA and the pitching staff never allowed more than three runs. “Some nights the bats carry the pitchers, some nights the pitchers carry the bats,” Mark Teixeira said. “This series it was the pitchers carrying us, so we’re going to try to do less of that next series and try to score some runs.”
• Three hits in the fifth inning was the Yankees most in a single inning since the ninth inning of Game 1. They did not hae an inning in which they scored more than one run over the final four games of the series. “When you play in the playoffs, you’re not going to have a lot of eight-run games, nine-run games,” Derek Jeter said. “These were close games, and fortunately for us, we came out on top today.”
• Strange situation with ALCS Game 1 coming tomorrow. Not much time to think about things and get the roster figured out, and the roster is a question with no set Game 2 starter and a Tigers rotation full of right-handers. “I usually say I am going to worry about one day at a time,” Girardi said. “I am going to worry about tonight. … We’ll sit down and talk tonight actually. It will be (Andy) Pettitte tomorrow. That’s all I have got for you.”
• Did Girardi consider pinch hitting with Alex Rodriguez when Eric Chavez came up against the lefty Troy Patton in the seventh? “They would have brought the righty in at that point,” Girardi said. “So I feel like, in a sense, you don’t want to waste your bullets, and I thought I’e going to leave it.”
• Curtis Granderson was kept in the lineup despite his miserable numbers this series. He responded with two hits, including a solo homer to add some breathing room in the seventh. “You go through (bad) four-game stretches all the time,” Granderson said. “Obviously these are more magnified and more intense, but you’ve got to continue to swing the bat and put guys out there. We as a team haven’t swung the bats as well as we would have liked to, Baltimore didn’t swing as well as they would have liked to, but you’ve just got to get hits when you need to in the end.”
• Why did Girardi stick with Granderson? “A lot of his struggles were off of lefties,” Girardi said. “And he had some pretty good at?bats off Hammel over at their place and during the course of their season, so I just felt like, you know, I am going to leave him in there. And obviously he came through today. That third run is a huge run for us and off a lefty. For Curtis, the big thing is when he swings at strikes, he is extremely dangerous.”
• Play of the game just might have been Mark Teixeira’s fifth-inning steal. His single had been the Yankees first hit of the game, and after he took second, Ibanez was able to get him home with groundball through the infield. “We talked about it a little bit yesterday and a little bit today that if the opportunity presented itself, they’re not holding you on,” Teixeira said. “I felt like we needed a little spark. I felt like we needed to get a guy in scoring position with nobody out. I took the chance. … I could have easily blown out running that way. I was either going to be a hero or a goat there in that instance. I’m not a base stealer at all, but I felt like we needed a spark.”
• Ibanez on the stolen base: “It surprised me and surprised everybody,” he said. “At that point I was just trying to get him to third base, and once I got two strikes I was just trying to hit the ball kind of up the middle and just kind of battle.”
• If you’re wondering, Teixeira had two steals in the regular season. He’d never stolen a base in the postseason.
• Girardi said Matt Wieters was most likely Sabathia’s final batter no matter what happened in that ninth inning. He was closer to pulling Sabathia in the eighth, but even then he was determined to stick with Sabathia through at least the McLouth at-bat. When McLouth struck out, Girardi stuck with Sabathia to face Hardy, who grounded to short to end the inning. “If Hardy gets a hit there, I am thinking of pulling him there,” Girardi said. “He had done a good job on Jones, but I just wanted to make sure that the inning didn’t get away. But I had Robby up for Hardy, and that is the first guy I might have brought him in for, not before that. CC was going and it was his game.”
• Speaking of the Hardy at-bat, that was a nice, charging play by Jeter to end the inning. “I had no choice,” Jeter said. “J.J. hit a slow roller. I was forced to get rid of it quick and I had enough time.”
• Sabathia is the second Yankee to throw a complete game in the division series (also David Wells in 1997) and his 17.2 innings are the most ever pitched by a Yankee in a single division series (passing David Cone, who threw 15.2 innings in 1995).
• Jeter took an 0-for-3 and had his streak of four straight multi-hit games to start this postseason snapped. It was the longest such streak in franchise history matching Moose Skowron (1960), Lou Gehrig (1932) and Babe Ruth (1928). Jeter is a career .343 hitter in division series games.
• Joba Chamberlain said his elbow was fine. He was available.
• The Orioles gave the Yankees all they could ask for in the regular season, and again in the postseason. Final word goes to Girardi: “You know, they are a very good club and they are a very resilient club. You have a bunch of young kids over there that just play the game the right way and play hard. And you think about it, we played 23 games, and there were four runs that separated us. It’s an accomplishment for both clubs because they never went away. People thought they were going to go away, they never went away. And I am very proud of our club for staying in.”
Associated Press photos
A decisive Game 5. Alex Rodriguez is healthy enough to play. The Yankees are choosing to keep him on the bench.
“I would have bet against that,” Joe Girardi said.
Yet, here we are.
“The man has a lot of pride and the man has accomplished a lot in his career,” Girardi said. “I’m sure it’s not easy. I mean, imagine if you’re in his shoes. Everyone wants to be in it. I always wanted to play, too. And I understood. It’s something we have to deal with.”
Girardi said he made the decision tonight. He slept on it, studied the video and the numbers, and decided he couldn’t trust Rodriguez’s at-bats against right handers. All of Rodriguez’s hits this series have come against lefties, and if you add the way he finished the regular season, he’s played his way out of the lineup.”
Two nights ago, Girardi pinch hit for Rodriguez in a one-run game. Last night, he did it again. Tonight, Rodriguez is on the bench hoping for an opportunity to take a swing against a left-hander. If there were a lefty starting for the Orioles, Girardi said, Rodriguez would have played.
“It’s been a struggle against the right handers,” Girardi said. “Chavy’s been a guy that we’ve played against a lot of right handers, and he’s been pretty successful for us. It’s a tough decision, there’s no doubt about it, because of what he’s meant to our club. But I just thought with the struggles that he’s having, I’m going to go with Chavy. (Rodriguez) said he’s ready to help when he needs to help, and let’s win today.”
Girardi said he talked to various people in the organization before making the decision — “They allow me to make the lineup,” he said — and Girardi referenced the time Joe Torre started Cecil Fielder over Tino Martinez. It’s not a bad comparison, but Martinez wasn’t a Hall of Famer with five years left on his contract.
Is Girardi worried about the long-term impact of such a decision.
“You can’t think about that now,” Girardi said. “You got to think about winning a game. This is not June. This is October. … If things become an issue, now is not the time to try to work it out. We’ve got all offseason, but I don’t think it’s going to be an issue.”
• If Rodriguez can sit, why not Curtis Granderson? “The big thing for Grandy is to swing at strikes,” Girardi said. “If he swings at strikes, he’s going to do damage. This was the only change I decided to make.”
• What about Nick Swisher? “Swish’s numbers don’t indicate his at-bats,” Girardi said. “I think Swish’s at-bats have been pretty good. He’s lined out, he’s hit balls hard, he hasn’t chased a lot of balls.”
• Couldn’t Brett Gardner have started in center field? “The thing about Brett is, he hasn’t played,” Girardi said. “He’s had three at-bats.”
• OK, so why not put Ichiro Suzuki in center field and use Raul Ibanez in left? “Then I have to come up with a DH,” Girardi said.
• Joba Chamberlain’s availability is still uncertain. “I don’t know,” Girardi said. “The one thing I can say about Joba is, he’s pitched through a lot in his career. If there’s any way he can get out there, I’m sure he’ll make himself available.”
• Girardi said the only pitcher who’s not available is Hiroki Kuroda. He would use Andy Pettitte if necessary, and he expects to have Dave Robertson and Rafael Soriano despite their recent workload. “I’ve got to talk to them, but I have to believe I’ll have them,” Girardi said.
• Right now Derek Jeter is in the lineup, and there’s every reason to think he’ll stay in the lineup. “I believe so,” Girardi said. “I’m not 100 percent though.”
• After being hesitant to do it all year, Girardi said he decided to stack Ichiro and Cano because he was going to have to put lefties back-to-back at some point, and he thought Ichiro and Cano were the best equipped to face left-handed relievers late in the game.
• How is Girardi feeling about a winner-take-all Game 5? “I feel good about it,” he said. “I feel good about CC on the mound. I feel good that we’re going to go out and play an excellent ballgame. Play 166 games and it comes down to one game, that’s baseball. Let’s go find a way.”
Nate McLouth LF
J.J. Hardy SS
Adam Jones CF
Chris Davis RF
Matt Wieters C
Manny Machado 3B
Mark Reynolds 1B
Lew Ford DH
Robert Andino 2B
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
2:30 – 3:30 p.m. - Yankees Hit
3:00 p.m. - Gates Open to the Public
3:30 – 4:20 p.m. - Orioles Hit
4:50 p.m. - Lineups Announced
4:55 p.m. - Presentation of Colors: Navy Operational Support Center New York City
4:56 p.m. - National Anthem: James Moye
4:59 p.m. - Ceremonial First Pitch: David Cone
5:02 p.m. - Umpires and Managers to Home Plate
5:05 p.m. - Yankees Take the Field
5:07 p.m. - First Pitch
Associated Press photos
Easy to imagine hypothetical scenarios. What if Raul Ibanez pinch hit in the eighth, not the ninth? If only Brett Gardner had started in center instead of Curtis Granderson? Maybe if Robinson Cano were the No. 3 hitter, Derek Jeter were batting cleanup and the Yankees had never traded away Jesus Montero.
The bottom line is this: The Yankees went 7-for-44 tonight. That’s a .159 team average. The Orioles didn’t hit much better — just .174 with more strikeouts and fewer walks — but in a game when either team could have won with a single timely hit, the Yankees couldn’t get one and the Orioles finally did.
Blame David Phelps for throwing the pitch to J.J. Hardy. Blame Joe Girardi for never pushing the right button. The reality of this game falls squarely on the shoulders of an offense that’s hit .216/.280/.333 this series. Believe it or not, the Orioles lineup has been worse, which means the Yankees would have locked up a spot in the ALCS if they’d just hit a little bit.
“You can come over here and say, you’re struggling to score runs,” Derek Jeter said. “You go over there in the other clubhouse, and they’re talking about how well they pitched. It goes both ways. It seems like every year I tell you guys the same thing: Good pitching is going to beat good hitting. That’s just how it goes. In the postseason it’s going to be tough because pitchers are going to bear down and you try to make good pitches. We need to find ways to score more runs obviously.”
Tonight’s worst offender? Take your pick.
Robinson Cano was 0-for-6. Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson were 0-for-5. Swisher hit into a double play and flied out to strand the go-ahead run at third. Granderson struck out three times.
“I’m chasing a couple of balls out of the zone, so I’ve got to go ahead and swing at some more strikes and then continue to stay aggressive and continue to attack,” Granderson said. “… That’s just a part of not recognizing and attacking the pitches that I want to hit. For whatever reason it happens to be, but definitely no reason about pressing by any means.”
The Yankees were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. It was just the fourth time in their 373 all-time postseason games that the Yankees were held hitless in nine or more at-bats with runners in scoring position. Whatever offensive life the Yankees were showing at the end of the regular season has clearly flickered to nothing.
“It’s playoff baseball,” Girardi said. “The games are extremely tight. Usually the difference in these games is one hit. That’s basically been the difference. It’s been very good pitching. They controlled the bats for the most part, and it’s come down to one hit.”
• Joba Chamberlain was hit in the right elbow by a broken bat head in the 12th inning. X-rays were negative, but Chamberlain was pulled because of swelling that Girardi worried could lead to command issues. Girardi didn’t completely dismiss the idea of putting Chamberlain on the disabled list, which would mean losing him for the next round. “It probably depends on how he feels tomorrow,” Girardi said.
• Chamberlain seemed to think he’d dodged a bullet because he didn’t get hit by the jagged end. “I heard it break,” he said. “… I was just trying to react and hope it didn’t hit me in the head, and that’s better than the other (end) hitting me in the head, so that’s a positive.”
• Jeter said he expects to be at shortstop tomorrow. “As far as I know yeah,” he said.
• Although Jeter fouled two balls off his left foot, he said neither one hit him in the same spot as last night’s foul ball. “I was missing it, man,” Jeter said. “I hit my shin. I hit my heel. I hit pretty much everything but the same spot.”
• Girardi would not comment on any potential lineup changes for tomorrow. “Go home and study the pitcher,” Girardi said. “I know our guys, and I’ll make decisions tomorrow. We play a little bit earlier so I’ll have to study a little bit sooner, but I’ll make decisions tomorrow.”
• Girardi on the decision not to pinch hit for Rodriguez in the eighth inning: “I know if I pinch hit, they’re going to walk the lefty that I bring in, and you’ve got O’Day that’s got the sinker. The one thing I want to try to stay out of is a double-play situation. You’ve got the infield in, you just want to put a ball in play. You’ve probably got to get a run and we weren’t able to do it.”
• Here’s Rodriguez on his strikeout that inning, which left runners at second and third. There was only one out, so a ball in play might have scored the go-ahead run. “I’m thinking get one run in, at least,” he said. “Get a ball to the outfield, give us a one-run lead. … I actually felt pretty good at the plate today, especially after the walk and I hit a pretty good ball over the shortstop’s head. O’Day seemed to have everybody’s number tonight. I certainly didn’t see him very well today.”
• Granderson said he wasn’t surprised when he was asked to lay down a sacrifice bunt in the fifth. He didn’t get it down and struck out instead. “I’m disappointed in myself for not getting that bunt down,” he said. “Nine times out of 10 I always get that bunt down no matter what the situation happens to be.”
• Strong start from Phil Hughes, who certainly gave the Yankees a chance to win but was disappointed he didn’t last through the seventh. “I was trying to find myself command-wise early,” Hughes said. “Fastball was a little bit all over the place, but I was fortunate to escape a couple of jams which was good, and kind of felt a little more comfortable as the game wore on.”
• Phelps said he didn’t feel rattled by entering the game in such an odd situation. “It’s no different than warming up out in the bullpen except it’s the mound you’re going to pitch on,” he said.
• Both hits off Phelps were on misplaced sliders. “I wanted (the Hardy pitch) down in the dirt so I could get either a roll over or a swing and miss,” he said. “I just left it over the plate. Same thing to Machado. The ball’s got to be down and away and I just left it over the plate.”
• Probably goes without saying, but just in case: “It’s all hands on deck tomorrow,” Girardi said.
• We’ll give the final word to Granderson: “Of course you want to go ahead and do as much as you can. Any time you get a chance to swing the bat, you want to try to go ahead and do something productive to help the team out. When you can’t, you’re looking for the next opportunity when you get a chance to get back up there. Obviously everybody on this team – whether it’s the guys that are starting or the guys coming in off the bench – they want to go ahead and do something big when they get up there at the plate.”
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi has been carrying the loss of his father for nearly a week now. Around noon on Saturday, the Yankees were on a bus, heading to a train station, making their way to Baltimore for Game 1 of this division. That’s when Girardi got the call that his father had died.
He did not tell a single player. Made no public announcement. Did not expect to say anything about it until this series was over. Because of the tears in his eyes on the bus that day, Girardi wore sunglasses to hide his emotions from the team.
“I told a couple people but for the most part no one knew,” Girardi said. “… I didn’t really want to talk about it. I didn’t want to take away from what we were trying to do here, because I know my dad wouldn’t. The one thing my parents always taught me was, finish the job at hand.”
Jerry Girardi suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and had been in a bad shape for several years. Girardi said today that his father didn’t fully understand the World Series win in 2009, and might not have fully comprehended what it meant when Girardi took the Yankees managerial job five years ago. The last time Girardi saw his father was the White Sox series in August.
“I think the best way to describe it is, if I could be half the husband and half the father my dad is, I’d do pretty good,” Girardi said. “He was always there for me, even though he was working three jobs, he was always there for me. He taught me the value of hard work and perseverance, family and the important things in life.
“At times he would be working three jobs at once to support the five kids. So he was a salesman. He would bartend at night a couple nights a week. He would lay bricks on the weekend, which he took me to do that with him, taught me that. So he gave me my first $100 bill at 7 years old because I worked four days with him and was covered in black mortar. We were doing a fireplace. It was a special relationship. Wherever my dad was, I was right behind him.”
Funeral services will be Monday, which means Girardi will miss that day’s workout if the Yankees advance to the American League Championship Series.
“(He was a) huge Cubs fan, loved the other sports, loved basketball, played a year at Bradley,” Girardi said. “So we played in the backyard. He was tough on me when we played basketball. I mean, he’d knock me down. He taught me about how to get back up.”
• Girardi said he’s liked both Mark Teixeira’s and Alex Rodriguez’s at-bats against left-handers, and he could have gone either way in terms of who hit third and who hit fifth today. “I’ve liked Texy’s at-bats, too, against left-handers,” Girardi said. “And Texy has been one of our most productive hitters against left-handers. He swung it really well against Saunders the last time we faced him, too. I could have went either way on that with Alex third and Texy fifth, but you put the switch hitter in between, I don’t mind doing that. I could have gone either way.”
• Rodriguez has hit .308/.410/.514 against lefties this season, and Girardi said he’s not worried that batting Rodriguez fifth will take the bat out of Robinson Cano’s hands. “No, I don’t think so, because Alex has hit them,” Girardi said. “If they want to walk Cano to get to Al, let them.”
• A day later, any concern that last night’s pinch hitting decision will strain the relationship between Girardi and Rodriguez? “I think you have to manage that,” Girardi said. “I think you could see the team attitude of Alex when he hit it. Our guys want to win at all costs. That’s what we have in there, and for that, I’m pretty fortunate.”
• Girardi said he does not think last night’s decision will change the way Rodriguez is handled going forward. “I’m thinking, he’s just in a tough little rut right now,” Girardi said. “He’s had good at-bats against lefties, and I expect him to be productive today. I do. He’s a guy, he had good at-bats against Saunders the time we faced him, and he had good at-bats against Chen the other day. You do have to manage things, and I understand that, but you have a responsibility to everyone.”
• Derek Jeter is going to go through batting practice to prove he can play, but there’s little reasont to think he’ll be pulled from the lineup unless he’s in extremely bad shape today. “He tells me he can’t play (is the only reason to scratch him),” Girardi said. “I would have to see him really running like he was yesterday.”
• How’s the team feeling coming into a potential clinching game? “I think it’s just try to put good at?bats together, pitch well, and just stay in the game, stay in the moment,” Dave Robertson said. “When you get an opportunity to score runs, score runs. When you get an opportunity to get a big out, get a big out. You’ve just got to grind it out with these guys and hope that you get a win. We’ve played a lot of tight ballgames with Baltimore this year, and that just seems to be the way this season is going with them.”
• Same plan as last night in terms of blog content during the game. I’ll be hosting an in-game chat, so swing by to vent or celebrate or ask a question or whatever. Hope to see you then.
Nate McLouth LF
J.J. Hardy SS
Chris Davis RF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Jim Thome DH
Mark Reynolds 1B
Ryan Flaherty 2B
Manny Machado 3B
LHP Joe Saunders
Associated Press photos
Keep in mind that Eric Chavez has played more than 1,500 big league games in his career. Keep in mind that he’s won five Gold Gloves, one Silver Slugger, and once homered in a game that clinched a postseason series. Keep in mind that he’s not the guy who homered tonight.
“(This game) is my best baseball moment in my whole career, without a doubt,” Chavez said. “… There’s not even a close second.”
From the locker right next to Chavez.
“That’s probably my favorite moment in baseball so far in my career,” Russell Martin said. “Just unbelievable.”
From the locker on the other side of Chavez.
“You dream about stuff like that,” Nick Swisher said. “I wasn’t even the guy who hit it, and I was jumping up and down going crazy. For Raul, I could not be more happy for him, man. You gotta be pro to step up in a situation like that. Especially pinch hitting, come up against a guy like Johnson, and then to just get that one pitch — because he doesn’t give you that many pitches to hit — and then he comes up in the 12th inning, and he goes Jack City again! You can’t script something like that.”
No, you really can’t. Raul Ibanez became the first player in Major League history to hit two home runs in a postseason game with both coming in the ninth inning or later. This Yankees offense was lifeless, completely finished, and suddenly Ibanez showed up, pinch hitting for one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, and took this team to the verge of advancing.
“Watching the game and being a part of this great team with all these great players, Hall of Fame players, the thing that really sticks out to me from spring training is how mentally tough these guys are and what great teammates they are,” Ibanez said. “You know, I’ll go one step beyond that and say that they’re great people, too. Being in that situation and being a part of something like this, this great team, and obviously all the legends that have come before you here is an extraordinary feeling, and it’s a great blessing. And then to be a part of something like that is definitely a special moment.”
Last time a Yankees player hit a pinch hit home run in the postseason was Hideki Matsui in Game 3 of the 2009 World Series, but no one in franchise history had ever hit a postseason pinch hit home run in the ninth inning or later to tie the game or give the Yankees the lead.
The last Yankees player to hit any sort of game-tying home run in the ninth inning or later of a postseason game was — of course — Alex Rodriguez, who did it twice in 2009.
Rodriguez said he did not argue with Joe Girardi’s pinch hit decision, and frankly he handled himself incredibly well during a postgame interview when he was surrounded by a massive mob of writers, reporters and television cameras documenting what must have been a hard-to-swallow moment.
“I love Joe,” Rodriguez said. “Again, I’m one of the leaders of his team. Maybe 10 years ago I react a much different way, but I’m at a place in my career right now where team means everything. I don’t think there was anybody in the ballpark more excited for Raul than me.”
Girardi on the decision: “You have to make some decisions sometimes that are tough decisions, but I just had a gut feeling. We talked about it in the pregame about (Ibanez) being a great pinch hitter, and you’ve got a left-handed hitter who’s a low-ball hitter in a sense, and you’ve got a low ball pitcher. I just kind of had a gut feeling.”
Ibanez on the decision: “I assumed something was going on or something when I was told that I was hitting second. And I asked one of the guys, I think it was Nuñez, and I asked who was hitting. And it was Alex. … Alex is one of the best hitters of all time, and he still is. I mean, he’s one of the greatest players in the history of the game. So for a minute I just thought something was going on, I didn’t know what was happening, and then I just tried to put it behind me and get a good pitch to hit.”
• As I’m sure you fully expected, Derek Jeter said he will play tomorrow. He fouled a ball off his foot in the first inning, so this is completely different from the bone bruise in his ankle. “It hurt, man,” Jeter said. “If you have a ball, I’ll throw it off your foot and you can relate. It’s part of the game. It happens. I wish it didn’t happen, but it did. It’s over with. No one wants to hear about it. Come back and play tomorrow.”
• Ibanez on Jeter: Watching Jeet grind through that game was inspiring, and the guy is obviously one of the greatest players in the history of the game. But to watch him grind through stuff like that and see he’s got the heart of a lion is a great experience.”
• Mentioned it earlier but worth repeating: Orioles manager Buck Showalter announced that Joe Saunders will be tomorrow’s starting pitcher.
• The A’s came from behind to beat the Tigers and force that series to a Game 5. That means tomorrow night’s game will be played as scheduled with a 7:37 p.m. first pitch.
• Girardi said he started thinking in the seventh inning that he might use Ibanez to pinch hit for Rodriguez in the ninth. “I lined it up that the possibility could come up,” he said.
• Girardi would not commit to a lineup for tomorrow. “Let’s just see what I put up tomorrow,” he said. “Let me sleep on this one.”
• It’s going to be lost, but what a great start by Hiroki Kuroda. “I was a little bit nervous, but overall I felt pretty much the same way as I did during the season,” Kuroda said. Martin said Kuroda literally made two mistakes all night, both were sliders that Machado and Flaherty hit for their home runs. Otherwise, he was outstanding. “The extra rest helped him,” Girardi said. “The one slider that was up to Machado, really that was the only mistake he made all night. That’s pretty amazing seeing that he threw over 100 pitches.”
• Good quote from Chavez: “He’s been our best pitcher the whole year. It’s really kind of not talked about. He’s meant a lot to our team. They’re going to talk about Ibanez tonight and Hiroki’s going to get lost in the shuffle, which is a shame because he’s been one of the best all year.”
• Also lost in the shuffle: The Yankees bullpen. The Orioles had such a lockdown bullpen all year, and now the Yankees have gotten to those relievers twice in three games. Tonight the Yankees pen delivered 3.2 scoreless innings, with Dave Robertson getting the win for his first two-inning appearance of the year.
• On the popup that fell between Robertson and Mark Teixiera, both Robertson and Teixeira described it the exact same way. “The wind really picked up late,” Teixeira said. “That ball started out behind home plate. I didn’t think I was even going to be in the play, but as it started drifting, I kept drifting. Robbie didn’t think he was even going to be close to the play, so he didn’t even move and that’s why we collided. As a pitcher, you’re taught to get out of the way if it’s going to be close, but he figured just as I figured that Russ would probably catch it right around home plate.”
• By the way, on television it looked like Teixiera came up yelling at Robertson for being in the way. Robertson said that wasn’t the case at all. Teixeira came up telling Robertson not to worry about it and just get the next out.
• Random new milestone for Jeter: He now has five postseason triples, tying him with George Brett and Rafael Furcal for the most all-time.
• The Yankees have lost three extra-inning games all year. All three were against the Yankees. Otherwise, they went 16-0 in extra-inning games this season.
• Mariano Rivera said he plans to be here for all of the postseason home games. As for throwing out tonight’s first pitch: “It feels great,” he said. “A lot of emotions, but what a great game. Thank God we have Raul on our side. Great to be back here, to be on the field. It feels great. That’s what I can tell you guys.”
• It’s worth mentioning that during Rivera’s interview, someone yelled from the players’ only part of the clubhouse: “It’s excitement overload!” I couldn’t see who it was, but no surprise that it sounded a lot like Swisher.
• Final word has to go to Ibanez: “I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit. I don’t even really remember what happened. It was kind of a blur what happened. I think sometime down the line I’ll kind of remember it and recall it, but I think I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit.”
Associated Press photos