Ibanez made Girardi look smart
Call it a great move, call it desperation call it whatever you want – but Girardi finally saw the light and pinch hit for ARod against a tough RHP in the 9th inning last night. Jim Johnson had made Alex look helpless, striking him out in Games 1 & 2 challenging him with his sinking Fastball. So staring a 2-1 series deficit and a potential elimination game in the face, Girardi finally let egos be damned and made a move that was long overdue. Obviously the move looks genius now because of Ibanez’ game-tying and game-winning HRs but it would have been the right move even if Ibanez struck out. Ibanez & Chavez have worn out RHP all year-long while Alex has clearly had trouble posting a .391 SLG% and .717 OPS.
Some people have said fans are overreacting about ARod after 3 poor games in the playoffs. But it has been a season long problem with RHP that Girardi should have addressed long before the playoffs. However, in Joe’s defense, he didn’t have his full starting lineup for much of the final 2 months so lineup changes were difficult. The question now is, after pinch-hitting for Alex, will Joe finally move him down in the lineup or take him out all together versus tough RHP? He definitely needs to do it BUT Game 4 is not the game to do it. Hitting against LHP has not been a problem for Alex as evidenced by his .308 BA and .924 OPS in 2012 – and he belongs in the 3 or 4 spot today. Lefty Joe Saunders will be on the mound and like several other Yankees, ARod has had success against Saunders. Here are the career #s vs Saunders:
Based on Nix’s 3 for 10 with 3 HRs vs Saunders and his more reliable glove than Nunez, Joe may have to go with Nix at SS to give Jeter a day at DH to rest his foot. The other guy you have to find a space for is Ibanez. Not only has he been amazingly hot in big situations but he has had success for Saunders in the past. Ibanez could play OF with Swish Tex or Granderson sitting out. With Hughes on the mound, Granderson’s speed in CF is important so I’d probably sit Tex or Swish.
Winning the Bullpen Battle
Coming into the Series, it seemed Baltimore had an edge over the Yanks in 1 category – the Bullpen. However, the Yankees pen has been excellent while the O’s have lost both games because of their pen. Baltimore relievers have thrown 10 innings and have allowed 6 Earned Runs. By comparison, their starters have allowed just 4 ERs in 19 ip. All-Star closer Jim Johnson led the A.L. with 51 saves in the regular season but has allowed 5ER already.
Yankee relievers have thrown 5 shutout innings allowing just 2 hits with David Robertson pitching 3.1 ip of that. DRob was a concern as he didn’t pitch well down the stretch but he’s been awesome so far. He’s mixed in his Curveball much more often than he had been in September and it’s been a very effective pitch for him. One of the resons for the bullpen’s success is the length given by the starters. Both CC & Kuroda pitched into the 9th inning and Pettitte gave 7 solid innings. This has enabled Joe to skip over his middle relievers and go straight to his set-up men and Closer. Game 4 may require more work from the pen since Hughes averaged 6.0 innings per start and had a shaky September with a 5.19 ERA. Soriano (1.1 ip) and DRob (2 ip) both went more than an inning last night so guys like Logan, Joba, Lowe & Phelps could play a larger role tonight.