Ugliness All Around

October 23, 2009 – 11:52 am

Los Angeles 7, NYY 6. Well that was just plain ugly all around. You knew it was going to be a long night when “Bad” A.J. Burnett showed up in the first inning, putting the Yankees behind 4-0 before he had even thrown a dozen pitches (seems like that has to be some type of record). To A.J.’s credit, though, he did settle down from there and shut out the Angels for the next five innings, and then the Yankees offense finally took charge of the game in the sixth, putting NY ahead 6-4. At that point you had to figure the AL Championship was a done deal — Chamberlain or Robertson gets the seventh, Hughes gets the eighth, and Mo gets the ninth, and then it’s champagne all around, right? That’s the way they’ve done it all year, no reason to think this one is going to end any differently, particularly with the championship just nine outs away, right?

Wrong. For whatever reasons, Girardi decides to send Burnett back out for the seventh, and sure enough he gives up a single and a walk. OK, to Girardi’s credit he yanks him quickly, but then he brings in of all people Damaso Marte, he of the 9+ ERA. Amazingly, though, Marte quickly gets two outs and is one batter away from getting out of the inning. But why stick with someone who is throwing strikes and getting guys out when you can bring in someone who has been struggling lately with a BAA of .389 in the playoffs? For whatever reasons, Girardi goes with Phil Hughes who immediately walks the bases loaded and then throws a BP fastball to Vladimir Guerrero of all people, and there you have it — score tied. And then to make matters worse Girardi, who has consistently pulled relievers who were pitching great, decides to leave an obviously struggling Hughes in to face Kendry Morales and to no one’s surprise, except Girardi’s I guess, Morales drives in the go-ahead and what would prove to be the winning run. Absolutely frigging amazing — when a reliever is pitching well, Girardi quickly pulls him, but when a reliever is struggling, he leaves him in. Mind boggling.

But even then, the Angel’s Brian Fuentes seemed determined to give the game right back to the Yankees in the ninth, as he loaded the bases with an intentional walk to A-Rod, an unintentional walk to Matsui, and then hitting Cano with a pitch. But alas, that brought up Nick Swisher who is batting all of .107 in the post-season and hasn’t had an RBI since the first game of the ALDS series. Admittedly this is a tough call for Girardi, but with the ALCS on the line, don’t you have to pinch hit Jerry Hairston here? Just what is wrong with Girardi’s short term memory? It was just five days ago that Hairston got the pinch-hit single that ended up winning the critical game two for the Yankees in extra innings. Isn’t this a deja vu all over again moment? But no, Girardi sticks with the struggling Swisher who predictably pops up to left field and that’s that.

The good news, of course, is that the Yankees are still up 3-2, and the series moves back to New York where all they have to do is win one of the next two. Although there is a slight footnote there in that if the series should go to game seven and the Yankees pull it out there, CC will be lost for the opening game of the World Series, and will only get two starts rather than three. So winning game six would be a big, big plus. But the “bad news” is that the Yankees have two struggling players in Hughes and Swisher. In the latter case, it would seem to make sense to sit Swisher at least for game six and give Brett Gardner the start. While Gardner has clearly been a disappointment on the base paths, he is 2-for-3 in the post-season, and he clearly is the best defensive outfielder they have — so that would seem like a no-brainer. But Hughes is the much bigger issue — his BAA is now up to .429, and he has given up at least one hit in each of his seven post-season starts. You have to think he will be dropped way down the list when it comes to relievers in close game situations. But with Girardi, you never know. And so it’s Girardi’s bullpen management that remains the biggest question mark of all.

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