In my Enter Sandman? post, I stated that this year's ALCS would be remembered for the absent bats of the Yankees. I would like to take this moment to detract that statement.
As the thoughts of this ALCS and the Yankees humbling loss to the Rangers in game 6 continue to swirl in the mind of the Bomber faithful, what will be remembered, and discussed, and recounted to the point of nausea will be the "questionable" management of Joe Girardi.
For a second, critical game in this series, Girardi opted to overuse a struggling, starting pitcher and both times, it cost the Yankees the game. Phil Hughes, who to his credit pitched far better last night in game 6 than his efforts in game 2, gave up a game-ending, series-ending 2-run double to Vladimir Guerrero in the fifth inning after walking Josh Hamilton with a man on for the second time. The move worked in the second inning, as Guerrero popped out. But the second go-round, he made the Yankees pay.
If you live by the sword, you die by the sword.
No one can argue that Hamilton continuously burned the Yankees in this series. But what will baffle fanatics from now until the fresh excitement of Spring training, is why Hughes was left in to face Guerrero with CC Sabathia available in the bullpen.
Again, Hughes really pitched a decent game, but it was obvious that he was winding down. As a manager, isn't it your job to know when your pitcher has had enough? Aren't you suppose to make critical decisions based on the present situation? Wouldn't you want your absolute best pitcher on the mound at this point?
And why did it even have to get to the point of walking Hamilton? Sabathia was available in the bullpen. Girardi said himself that if they used CC it would probably be to face two batters. And yet when the opportunity came for him to do so, he opted to stick with Hughes.
"Hughesy has had success off Vlad Guerrero and got him out twice, and that's why he stayed there," Girardi explained.
No. No. No. No. No.
Sabathia was brought over to the Yankees for moments like this. He was the ONLY pitcher at that moment who was supposed to face Hamilton and shut down Guerrero. If he couldn't, at least you knew that your best was out there. But Girardi never gave himself or his team their best chance to stay in the game.
So went the game, so went the series.
"You have to give some credit to their pitchers," Girardi said. "They obviously made some good pitches when they had to."
You have to also give credit to Ron Washington, who out-managed Girardi and optimized his pitch staff because he had to.