Girardi Blows Game 3 With Awful Move

11th-inning double follows questionable managerial move

By Josh Alper
|  Friday, Feb 24, 2012  |  Updated 11:14 AM PDT
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Double Dose of Mathis Has Angels Back in Series

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All around New York City at this hour people are wondering just how big of a commission Joe Girardi gets per managerial move. Whatever the number, he's a rich man at this hour because of the way he attempted to take over Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. His last move will be the one that gets him grilled more than any other, however.

Girardi pulled David Robertson in the 11th inning with two outs and no one on base and summoned Alfredo Aceves to face Howie Kendrick. Kendrick promptly singled up the middle and Jeff Mathis doubled him home two hitters later to make the Yankees 5-4 losers and make for a lot more nervous Yankee fans than there were when the game got underway.

The pitching change is, on the surface, hard to defend. Both pitchers are right-handers, as is Kendrick, and Aceves has never faced him before which eliminates the strong history angle. Robertson was throwing well and, generally speaking, has better stuff than Aceves. It will be interesting to hear what Girardi has to say, but the move smacks of Girardi making the game much harder than it needs to be for little or no gain to the team.

Some other moves also will be noted Monday night and Tuesday. Girardi pinch-ran Brett Gardner instead of Freddy Guzman for Hideki Matsui in the eighth inning and then pinch-hit Jerry Hairston for Gardner in the ninth. That cost Girardi his two most useful defensive reserves, except that neither one was available defensively without forcing the pitcher to hit because Matsui was the designated hitter. That's just what wound up happening when Hairston replaced Johnny Damon defensively in the 10th (a smart move given Damon's childlike throwing arm), leaving Francisco Cervelli to pinch-hit for Mariano Rivera in the top of the 11th. That whole convoluted chain was mostly unnecessary when you realize Guzman is only on the roster to pinch run while Gardner has other uses. 

Girardi also chose to wait to use Rivera until Phil Hughes had already allowed a double to start the Angels half of the 10th. He quickly went to Rivera at this point, which begs the question of why he'd wait if he was willing to use Rivera in a tie game. Rivera made him look smart by escaping his own error and a bases loaded situation thanks to three plays by Mark Teixeira, but it was still part of a baffling performance by the Yankee manager. 

It was a strange game overall. The two teams combined to score nine runs without either side picking up a single hit with a runner in scoring position. The Yankees hit four solo home runs, but could manage only four other hits over the course of the evening. Bobby Abreu doubled to start the 8th and then decided to wander off base where he was dead meat on a relay throw that came in behind him and got him out. Of course, that play was used as an opportunity to praise Derek Jeter's preternatural brilliance which is odd since it was only Abreu's stupidity that got him out.   

We're used to such things, though, and we're also quickly getting used to seeing Alex Rodriguez rounding the bases after a home run. He hit his fourth of the postseason and Jeter added his third, but the rest of the Yankee lineup has not been backing them up well enough. Teixeira, for example, is 1-for-13 through three games and the team as a whole has become overly reliant on the home run to bail them out.

That needs to change Tuesday night if CC Sabathia is going to beat the Angels for the second time in five days. If it doesn't and if CC doesn't, we'll hit full panic mode and Girardi will be wishing he was back on the slow roast he put himself on by managing by bulk during Monday's loss.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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