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Joe Girardi goes down with his hand-picked nine

Oct 17, 2012, 12:07 AM EDT

Joe Girardi, Brian Cashman Getty Images

Benched sluggers Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher never budged, and lefty Phil Coke was allowed to face three left-handers and switch-hitter Mark Teixeira in escaping the ninth inning of Detroit’s 2-1 win over the Yankees on Tuesday.

Coke replaced Justin Verlander after the ace’s 132nd pitch retired Brett Gardner for the first out of the ninth. Ichiro Suzuki was due up with none on, and he’d be followed by Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Raul Ibanez.

Coke retired Suzuki, only to give up a single to Teixeira when he couldn’t get his glove up fast enough to grab the one-hopper up the middle. Cano followed with another single in a lefty-lefty matchup, snapping his 0-for-29 skid.

That brought up Ibanez, the Yankees’ postseason hero to date. The problem there is that Ibanez hit .197/.246/.246 in 61 at-bats against lefties this season. He came in at .211/.232/.353 in 133 at-bats against them last year.

Pinch-hitting A-Rod for Ibanez was an option, but it certainly would have led to the Tigers countering with Joaquin Benoit. Which probably would have led to switch-hitter Nick Swisher replacing A-Rod. So, if the Yankees were going to do anything, they probably would have just inserted Swisher in the first place and allowed the Tigers to make their pick of Coke or Benoit.

Was that preferable to Ibanez versus Coke? Well, the season stats say yes and that it’s not close. Swisher hit .270/.380/.389 against lefties and .273/.356/.517 against righties this year. He was also far more successful than Ibanez away from Yankee Stadium this year (Ibanez hit .208 with just five of his 19 homers in road games this season). That said, Swisher is ice cold and he’s had very little success in limited pinch-hitting opportunities in his career. Pinch-hitting isn’t easy; AL pinch-hitters batted .206 this year. It’s not really so clear cut.

So, I’m not going to find fault with Girardi’s in-game strategy after questioning his pregame moves earlier. There’s no real shame in getting shut down by the league’s best starter, even if he wasn’t quite at his best tonight. The game may well have unfolded the same way had Rodriguez and Swisher started, though it doesn’t look great for Girardi that Gardner and Eric Chavez went 0-for-7 in their place.

  1. mike5606 - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:18 AM

    Can’t really blame Girardi for not pinch hitting Ibanez in that spot. The guy has done so much for the team in the last month and a half, you can’t take him out with the game on the line. If he did and let’s say Swisher or A-rod came up and struck out, or blew it, then there would be a post complaining about how Girardi pinch hit for his hottest hitter at the plate.

    • polegojim - Oct 17, 2012 at 3:52 AM

      Hats off to Girardi for smartly trying everything reasonably possible.

      Tigers just playing VERY smart baseball.

      Go TIGERS!

      • thehypercritic - Oct 17, 2012 at 5:23 AM

        What? Pointing out that Girardi did about as much as a manager could do to lower the odds of winning the game throughout does not negate the fact the Tigers won and would likely have done so if Girardi wasn’t sabotaging his team’s chances at every turn.

      • polegojim - Oct 17, 2012 at 9:03 AM

        @hyper… ok… that’s pretty circular. According to your reasoning, it didn’t matter anyway, so what’s your beef?

        They aren’t hitting and scoring with A-Rod and Stewart. If he leaves things alone, he earns criticsm for not knowing how to shake things up to wake his team up. So… he did what ANY good manager would, he made changes to find a more productive recipe.

        Go Tigers!

    • jayquintana - Oct 17, 2012 at 5:18 AM

      Exactly! The media’s said A-Rod’s done. Now they’re saying that if he pinch hit for Ibanez, he’d have hit a three run homer! Geez Louise, is it too much to ask for a little consistency?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 17, 2012 at 10:43 AM

        Louise, is it too much to ask for a little consistency?

        You, rightfully so, must not read a lot of NY Media if you expect any consistency from them!

    • pisano - Oct 17, 2012 at 8:58 AM

      I agree 100%, why would Joe bring in Arod or Swisher? do you think he wanted to watch two more strikeouts?

  2. thehypercritic - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:20 AM

    Ichiro was worse than Ibanez, but both involve magical thinking and pretending nothing a ballplayer’s done before mid-September can tell us anything about a players’ likely performance.

    It’s incompetence and shouldn’t be how a billion dollar business makes decisions.

    • dan1111 - Oct 17, 2012 at 2:53 AM

      Actually, for his career Ichiro has hit lefties just as well as righties. He also hit well not just in the postseason, but in 60 games with the Yankees. I think leaving him was defensible.

      I agree with your basic point, though.

      • thehypercritic - Oct 17, 2012 at 3:18 AM

        Ichiro may have fared well against lefties, but Coke isn’t nearly as effective against righties.

        By hitting for Ichiro, Girardi could have either significantly lowered the efficacy of the pitcher on the hill or forced Leyland to burn Coke and leveraged that against the rest of the overtaxed backend with the rest of the inning.

  3. sagnam - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:03 AM

    Is he going to call for replay tomorrow because Cano was 2 feet off the bag when turning the bases loaded inning ending double play? That play actually cost the Tiger a run.

    • josemartez - Oct 17, 2012 at 8:27 AM

      I thought that play looked off to me. Surprised there wasn’t more of a reaction from it.

      • marinersnate - Oct 17, 2012 at 10:56 AM

        “Surprised there wasn’t more of a reaction from it.”

        There would have been if it had been the other way around.

  4. cdeangelus - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:39 AM

    When every bullet’s a blank, it doesn’t matter how good your aim is.

  5. ray1950 - Oct 17, 2012 at 7:10 AM

    Considering the fact that Joe Girardi’s father recently passed away, I’m surprised to see “Girardi dies with his hand picked 9” on the front page. I’m not a Yankees fan (and I realize Matthew has nothing to do with writing the headline) but the choice of wording indicates a lack of respect and decency.

    • Alex K - Oct 17, 2012 at 8:42 AM

      Matthew has everything to do with writing the headline. This isn’t ESPN.

  6. mj1818 - Oct 17, 2012 at 8:18 AM

    That’s part of what makes verlander great is that he can be real good when he is not at his best.

    • stex52 - Oct 17, 2012 at 10:15 AM

      To me that’s a lot of the difference between a #2 pitcher and a #1 pitcher (except maybe strikouts). When they don’t have their best, they still have enough tools to make it work anyway.

  7. stex52 - Oct 17, 2012 at 8:25 AM

    It’s like playing the stock market. When the team hits, the manager is a genius. Everything he does works. When the team doesn’t hit, he’s an idiot.

    Let’s keep the focus of the blame where it belongs. I don’t even blame Girardi for showing some desperation right now. Those guys are awful.

  8. metalhead65 - Oct 17, 2012 at 8:47 AM

    yea really dumb move by giradi by not sticking with arod. dusty baker would never bench his washed up/slumping starting 3rd baseman. got to have that veteran leadership in the lineup no matter what and look how well that worked out for him… oh wait never mind. can Joe send dusty the page in his book that shows it is ok do things like that? that page seems to be missing from dusty’s book.

  9. mqcarpenter - Oct 17, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    This is all arm chair quarterbacking. We are questioning moves in the las T bat with all ice cold hitters. That isn’t fair. Girardi gambled and lost. He has very little to work with offensively and went with his gut. So be it. The truth is that if Arod had pinch hit for jab ez and got out girardi would be trampled in the high and mighty media.

  10. vicksprman - Oct 17, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    A-Rod shouldn’t have been benched in the first place, the whole line up isn’t hitting but you can’t replace them all you just bench A-Rod, that’s really working out well for them. Bottom line with the way this club isn’t hitting doesn’t matter what line up he throws out there they aren’t going to win.

  11. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 17, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    Nunez was the entire Yankee offense, and Gardner saw more pitches this game than Swisher has in the entire post-season. I would say the moves improved the team, just not enough. Girardi can do what he can do, but he can’t make the hitters hit.

    While it is probably not the difference in this game, how is it that Verlander was getting pitched 8 inches of the plate called strikes, while Hughes was getting pitches right down the middle called balls? ( There has been a bit of that throughout the series.

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