Joe Girardi had no regrets this morning about using Mariano Rivera last night. The way he saw it, a grand slam would have pulled the Tigers within 2, and Girardi thought it was best to shut the door right then and there.
“He hadn’t pitched since Tuesday, and before that, he hadn’t pitched in a little bit,” Girardi said. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt him. Obviously it helps to keep him sharp. I think you could look at it either way with three more days in a row. But it shouldn’t hurt.”
Ivan Nova pitching into last night’s ninth inning meant the Yankees used only Luis Ayala and Rivera in Game 1. Girardi has said he’s willing to use any of his relievers three days in a row, which leaves him with a full bullpen these next three days. There’s a chance Rivera wouldn’t be available on Tuesday, but Girardi said there’s no doubt he’ll be available tonight and tomorrow.
A full bullpen could be key with Freddy Garcia, who’s built his season on keeping the Yankees in a game for six innings, then letting the relievers takeover. Garcia-to-Soriano-to-Robertson-to-Rivera could be a perfect recipe for the Yankees in Game 2.
“Our bullpen is in very good shape,” Girardi said. “So that sets up really well. Freddy is a completely different look than all of our other pitchers. You can look at all of our other pitchers and say they’re somewhat power guys. Freddy is the one finesse guys we’ve got that’s going to use a lot of offspeed, see some slow breaking balls. It’s a totally different look.”
Here’s Girardi’s pregame press conference. It wasn’t very long. We got a little more in the beat writers session.
• The Yankees are now committed to CC Sabathia pitching tomorrow’s Game 3, and Girardi finally made it official that A.J. Burnett will start Game 4. The only thing that would have kept Burnett from lining up for Game 4 would have been using him in long relief last night. Phil Hughes is the long man today.
• Girardi said the umpires “absolutely” got the call right on Robinson Cano’s double off the top of the wall last night, though Girardi was a little surprised that fans didn’t reach out and pull that ball into the stands. “Usually you see that,” Girardi said. “I’m not sure how far they would have had to reach to get to it. I don’t know how wide that concrete is out there. I’m sure it would have been reviewed either way, so it would have ended up the same.”
• Despite the fact Sabathia just pitched two days ago, Girardi said his pitch count won’t be at all limited tomorrow night. “I don’t think so, just because he threw so few on Friday, and he’s not expected to make another start in the division series,” Girardi said.
• Girardi said he’s not second-guessing Ayala after back-to-back rough outings. “He’s pitched really well for us,” Girardi said. “And I think you have to look at his body of work. And he got a ground ball from Avila, then he got another ground ball. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do.”
• Hector Noesi and Raul Valdes have joined Ramiro Pena in Tampa. Those three are staying sharp at the minor league complex. Bartolo Colon and Austin Romine are staying with the big league team. Romine is catching in the bullpen to stay with the big league staff.
• Girardi never looked a replay of last night’s play at the plate. He said last night that he was positive it was an out when he saw it live, and he never felt a need to look at it again.
• As someone pointed out, Rivera technically threw the first and last pitch of Game 1. He threw the ceremonial first pitch on Friday, then closed the game on Saturday.
Austin Jackson CF
Magglio Ordonez RF
Delmon Young LF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Alex Avila C
Jhonny Peralta SS
Wilson Betemit 3B
Ramon Santiago 2B
Associated Press photo
Postgame notes: “There’s some concern there” • 09.18.11
Ten starts in a row, Freddy Garcia didn’t allow a single home run. When he finally coughed one up on August 29, it was the only run he allowed all game. Since then, Garcia has allowed multiple home runs in three straight starts, including two tonight to Adam Lind.
“I try to make good pitches, and sometimes I’m not able to do it,” Garcia said. “That’s why I’ve been giving home runs… Last three starts, I don’t be doing my job. I’m really frustrated about it, but that’s part of the game. Sometimes you pitch good. Sometimes you pitch bad. You just have to go continue to try to do the best that you can do, and hopefully everything goes well for you.”
This weekend did little to clarify the Yankees rotation situation. Bartolo Colon couldn’t pitch beyond the fourth inning on Saturday, and Garcia couldn’t get out of the fifth today. At times, one of those two has been the Yankees second-best starter, but they’ve struggled recently.
“Bart had a good start on this road trip and had one that wasn’t so good,” Joe Girardi said. “Freddy’s kept us in the games. We talked at the beginning of the season how we worried about innings for both these guys. There’s some concern there, but they’ve just got to find a way to get it done.”
Garcia said tonight’s home run was a good pitch, a splitter that Lind put a good swing on. The second was a slider that “didn’t do much.”
As good as Garcia has been this season, there is some risk with him. He’s never been an overwhelming or overpowering pitcher. His value is in his experience and savvy, and sometimes that leaves little margin for error.
“He’s just missing some spots, that’s all,” Girardi said. “That’s going to happen. Freddy’s not going to be a huge strikeout guy and they’re going to put the ball in play. If you miss some spots, that’s the chance you’re going to take.”
• The Yankees won only four of 10 on this road trip, but they still managed to gain two games in the standings. After today’s game, the team just seemed relieved to be finally going home. “From now on every game is important,” Alex Rodriguez said. “Every game is meaningful. We’re looking forward to playing at home, playing well, start cleaning up some of the small mistakes that we’ve been making. We understand we’ve got to get better.”
• After Monday’s makeup game against the Twins, the Yankees play their final 10 games against the Red Sox and Rays. With seven games at home against those two teams, the Yankees home stand could either put the division away or make it a race to the finish. “It will be a great opportunity to do that there,” Mariano Rivera said. “We still have to perform good and take care of business at home, get this thing over.”
• The Yankees magic number to clinch a playoff spot is five, to clinch the division is seven.
• Obviously Brandon Morrow completely shutdown the Yankees offense today. “He had us baffled all day with his slide,” Rodriguez said. “He probably threw 70 to 75 percent sliders, which is a very high percentage for him. He’s usually the opposite, 70 to 77 percent fastball guy.”
• Of course, Nunez also made the second Yankees base-running mistake of the weekend. “He’s just making an aggressive turn,” Girardi said. “In that situation, you’ve got to know the score. You’re not going to get to second unless it really bounces off himn, so you’ve got to be cautious there. He was just overaggressive.”
• Why not pinch hit for Ramiro Pena in the eighth? “Pena’s had some success off him,” Girardi said. “Grandy is 1 for his last 15 with 10 strikeouts. If we had a couple guys on, I might have pinch-hit Grandy and taken a chance.”
• Impressive Yankees debut by Raul Valdes, who retired four of the five batters he faced, including all three left-handers. The Yankees have been giving Aaron Laffey a lot of chances to emerge as a legitimate second lefty candidate, but that Valdes appearance might earn a few more looks. I still don’t think the Yankees will actually carry a second left-hander in the postseason, but I’m sure they’d like to have a backup option in mind.
• Random fact about tonight’s game: The phone from the dugout to the bullpen stopped working for a while. “The phones haven’t worked real good here the last couple days,” Girardi said. “Danny (Iassogna) handled it and we used the policeman’s walkie-talkie for a few minutes, then they got the phones working again.”
• Girardi’s assessment of going 4-6 on the road and still gaining two games in the standings: “I think we are fortunate,” he said. “We’ve got to go home and play better, there’s no doubt about it. At times, we didn’t swing the bats on this trip. Is it good pitching? Is it fatigue? I don’t know, but I know our guys are pretty worn down. Now they’ll get to sleep in their own beds and hopefully catch up a little bit.”
After 12 pitches and seven consecutive foul balls, the thing that caught my eye was the reaction of Melky Cabrera. Robinson Cano had just fought through one of the best at-bats of the season, and when it ended with a game-changing, three-run home run to deep right-center field, Cabrera reacted as if he’d been expecting it all along. He took maybe a step and a half, then stopped to watch it fly away.
At some point, when you’ve seen Cano enough times, you know something like this is possible.
“Robbie’s going to hit,” Joe Girardi said. “It seems like Robbie was born to hit.”
In his past 16 games, Cano is hitting .422 with five home runs and 22 RBI. Girardi it’s the best Cano’s ever been, and Cano said he’s felt as good as he did last season when he finished third in MVP voting.
“I’ve been more able to drive the ball the other way, something I wasn’t doing most of the first half,” Cano said. “Now in the second half, I’ve got three or four homers the other way, and that’s something you want. You want power to the whole field, not just pulling things and hitting ground balls to second base.”
That fourth-inning at-bat was a perfect example of just how good he can be. A left-handed pitcher was firing fastballs and sliders, and Cano kept fighting them off — including two fastballs that he said were “on the ground” — until he finally got a slider he could handle. Cano said he had been kicking himself for not taking a walk, but he did better than a free pass.
“It’s as good as it gets,” Girardi said. “That’s just a great at-bat. Even just to foul off that many pitches and continue the at-bat is great. To get a hit is great, then to top it with a homer… To be able to recognize a pitch and foul it off when it’s not your pitch, a guy who’s throwing pretty hard up to 95-96 with a good (breaking ball), that’s not easy to do. That’s where you see the talent in Robbie.”
• Alex Rodriguez played six innings in the field and went 1-for-3 at the plate in his Triple-A rehab appearance. Girardi said he had not yet gotten a full report, but all indications were that Rodriguez came through the game just fine and will play again tomorrow.
• A side note: I wrote yesterday that the Yankees are keeping the Triple-A clubhouse closed to media before Rodriguez’s rehab games. Turns out they did the same thing when Derek Jeter was in Trenton. I don’t remember that ever happening when I was in Scranton, but apparently it’s something the Yankees have started doing to control the chaos. Understandable, just struck me as unusual when I first heard about it.
• Cano was asked whether he feels more pressure when Rodriguez is out of the lineup: “Here is always a feeling of responsibility, even with Alex not here,” he said. “But it’s more with Al here, because you want to make them pitch to him, not just walk him and try and face you. That means you’re not doing your thing.”
• Cano’s at-bat was clearly the turning point, and the Yankees wouldn’t win this game without a big night from the lineup, but the bullpen was beyond outstanding. Yankees relievers faced 11 hitters and retired all of them. “They’ve done a tremendous job in these two games here,” Girardi said. “They’ve been really good. It’s how you draw it up.”
• Derek Jeter is now hitting .352 with 17 runs and 21 RBI in his past 22 games. he’s a career .318 hitter against the Royals… Not to be outdone, Brett Gardner is a career .474 hitter against the Royals (9-for-19).
• Ivan Nova’s two worst starts this year have come against the Royals. “They hit me,” Nova said. “They see my ball really well. That’s why I get hit against this team.”
• Girardi and Nova seemed to have different takes on the problem tonight. Nova felt like he got hit on some good pitches. Girardi thought Nova made some good pitches, but got hit on mistakes that were up in the zone. “He was up,” Girardi said. “You look at the hits he gave up, high slider, high curveball, high fastball. He threw some good sliders and good curveballs, but it seemed like when he made a mistake – sometimes with two strikes – they hit it.”
• Nova has won five straight starts and his 12 wins are the most among Major League rookies. It’s the highest win total for a Yankees rookie since Orlando Hernandez went 12-4 in 1998. He’s already matched the Yankees rookie win record for the past 30 years. “A win is a win,” Nova said. “I don’t think I get paid for my ERA. I think I get paid to win games, so a win’s a win, no matter the way you get it.”
• The Yankees claimed left-handed reliever Raul Valdes off waivers from the Cardinals and assigned him to Triple-A. His lefty splits are pretty bad, but he’s spent parts of two years in the big leagues, so apparently the Yankees aren’t the only team to see something in him.
• To make room on the 40-man, Jeff Marquez was transfered to the 60-day disabled list.
• If for no other reason, click the Cano audio to hear Nick Swisher pleading his case for the early bus to wait for him. He was clearly joking, but it was very funny. Also, the postgame song of choice tonight was Smells Like Teen Spirit. Unusual, but solid.
Associated Press photos