If Alex Rodriguez is in the midst of another offensive ALDS meltdown, a notion his 1-for-12 (.083) skid through Game 3 strongly supports, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi demonstrated Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium that he wasn't going to sacrifice another season waiting for the third baseman to get back on track.
The Baltimore Orioles were ahead 2-1 with one out in the ninth inning of Game 3 when Girardi, after watching Rodriguez go 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, backed up what he told reporters during Tuesday's conference call, doing what was in his team's best interest by having Raul Ibanez hit for Rodriguez at that crucial moment.
"We know that we're in a three-game series, and whether you need to pinch-hit for someone, you need to make a pitching change, you need to change the lineup a little bit, our guys understand," Girardi said. "We have a veteran group that understands that we're going to do what we think is the best thing to win."
Ibanez made Girardi look like a sage, as you know, rocking a game-tying shot to right off Orioles closer Jim Johnson, before taking left-hander Brian Matusz deep in the 12th inning to beat Baltimore 3-2.
Ibanez's clutch performance Wednesday was just half of the story, though.
We've seen Girardi in the past, and Joe Torre before him, leave Rodriguez, who's struck out seven times in this year's ALDS, in the lineup no matter how much he hurt the team in postseason play. They figured the three-time AL MVP would be able to bounce back in time to help save the Yankees' season, but playing that waiting game has been hazardous. It contributed to first-round exits in 2005, '06, '07 and '11.
As necessary as it was for Girardi to make that ninth-inning change, dropping a starting player--especially one of Rodriguez's stature--in the lineup or taking them out altogether, as the Yankees manager pointed out Tuesday, isn't a decision reached with ease.
"Sometimes it's just not as easy as just writing a name or taking a guy out, a pitcher out," Girardi said. "You have to think about the emotional part. You always have to think about that as a manager.
"But," he added, "being a three-game series, our guys know what's at stake, and we have to win two games."
After Wednesday's thriller, make that one more win for the Yankees to advance.
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