Just Following The Recipe

July 18, 2009 – 10:39 am

Tex Goes YardNYY 5, Detroit 3. This is pretty much the recipe for winning these days with the Yankees. All they really need is mediocre starting pitching and then let the bats eventually put enough runs on the board to win, and the bullpen will do the rest. And the Yankees got a mediocre start from A.J. Burnett — actually a “quality” start, but a rough one at that, giving up 3 runs on 6 hits and 5 walks with only one strike out. Mark Teixeira got the game-winning home run in going 3-for-5. Let’s hope the All-Star break got him back in his power-hitting mode. Although he’s hardly been in a hitting slump, for whatever reasons the power just hasn’t been there for some time. In a little over a month his SLG has slipped all the way from .643 on June 10 to .535 going in to this game. It would be nice to see him back at .600+ by Fall.

Ultimately what the game came down to, though, was a classic example of how to manage and not manage the bullpen. Kudos to Joe Girardi who got it right this time. Despite Burnett’s struggles, Girardi stuck with him through the 6th inning before going to the bullpen. And then, in spite of being down 3-2, he opted not to bail out with a bullpen-by-committee strategy, but instead brought in Phil Hughes — and more importantly stuck with him for a second inning after he struck out the side in the 7th. Meanwhile, Teixeira had given the Yankees the lead, and so it was Mariano Rivera in the 9th for the save, and the win. That’s the way you manage the pitching. When you have a pitcher in there that’s getting the job done, even if a bit ugly, you stick with him.

Jim Leyland, on the other hand, gave us a perfect example of how not to manage your pitching. Even though Luke French ran in to a bit of trouble in the 5th (with bad defense playing no small part), he was still pitching pretty well. But rather than send him out for the 6th, Leyland chose to go the bullpen-by-committee route. Fu-Te Ni managed to throw one shutout inning, but Leyland then pulled him and brought in yet another middle reliever, Joel Zumaya, who coughed up the game winner to Teixeira. Thank you, Jim. You keep running in relievers long enough, the Yankees will find one they can tattoo. Amazing how many managers just don’t understand this.

Photo: Newsday

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