Girardi Deals with a Short Deck

When your team wins the game it’s easy to justify the decisions made therein. This morning, R.J. examined Joe Maddon’s moves in last night’s game against the Yankees and expressed a positive impression. While I don’t necessarily agree with the sac bunt call, which also led to the loss of the DH, it didn’t exactly hurt the Rays’ chances of winning the game. Otherwise, it seemed like Maddon made the right — i.e., obvious — moves, and it led to a win. Girardi, on the other hand, made some curious decisions that ended up hurting his team’s chances.

The most obviously bad move was going to Sergio Mitre in the 11th. He has questionable command to begin with, and after a week of inactivity it was unlikely he’d be at his sharpest. Even if Reid Brignac hadn’t homered, chances are he, Evan Longoria, and Carlos Pena would have gotten to him at some point. Once Mitre entered the game it was effectively over. The Rays were going to hit him at some point.

Girardi did have limited options for that 11th inning. David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain were not available. Mariano Rivera was essentially unavailable, though Girardi did say he would have brought him in to save a game. He has shown a willingness to use Rivera in a tie game on the road this season, and in fact has done so as recently as Friday. But Rivera is 41 and could certainly have used the rest. That left just a short set of arms available for extra innings. Unfortunately, that set included the team’s worst arms.

The truly bad bullpen decisions came earlier. Kerry Wood threw 11 pitches in the ninth, but didn’t come out for the 10th. That could have helped extend the game. Boone Logan has been effective since his latest recall and has pitched a full inning, or even more, on several occasions. Last night, Girardi used him for just one batter. There’s no guarantee that he could have staved off defeat, but he certainly gives the Yankees a better chance of survival than Sergio Mitre. So while going to Mitre in the 11th was essentially the only possible decision, Girardi’s prior decisions necessitated it.

Yet Girardi’s oddest decision of the night had nothing to do with the bullpen. It had to do with the exact bunting situation for which R.J. praised Maddon. Nick Swisher couldn’t start because of a gimpy knee, but he did pinch hit for Greg Golson. Since Swisher couldn’t play the field that meant rookie Colin Curtis had to take over in right field and in the ninth spot, which sets the stage for the top of the 11th.

Austin Kearns led off with a single. Up came Curtis Granderson. He hit eighth because the lefty David Price started the game, but this time around he was facing the righty Grant Balfour. Facing the right-handed throwing Balfour gives Granderson an advantage, but Girardi squandered it by having him bunt Kearns to second. That brought up Colin Curtis, who predictably made an out. So, essentially, Girardi traded two outs so Derek Jeter would get a shot to drive in the runner from second. While Jeter has looked better in the past two games, he has had a generally poor season at the plate. He put a good swing on a pitch, but ended up flying out to right. One batter later the Rays walked off.

Without Robertson and Chamberlain available, and for all practical purposes without Rivera, Girardi had tough choices to make. Unfortunately, he seemed to pull the wrong string at the wrong time. He doesn’t get a pass on this one. He gets a break of sorts because of his team’s handicap, but even so he could have made better decisions with the weapons he had. He wasn’t the sole reason the Yankees lost the game, but with a few different (better) moves the game might have ended on a different note.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

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Think this statement needs to be re-worded:

“This gives Granderson an advantage, but Girardi squandered that by having him bunt Kearns to second. That brought up Curtis, who predictably made an out”