A-Rod stays in 3-hole; Hughes to start Game 4
Yankees manager Joe Girardi had no real surprises in his lineup for Wednesday night’s Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium. All the critics who expected Alex Rodriguez to be removed from the 3-hole were probably not satisfied to see him there once again, albeit as the designated hitter rather than at third base.
Even that was not a surprise. Eric Chavez got the start at third basically because he is one of the few Yankees hitters who has good numbers against Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez, who held them to a .196 batting average in two Stadium starts during the regular season. Chavez had 3-for-6 (.500) with one home run and two RBI against Gonzalez.
The argument against Rodriguez batting third can be pretty compelling. He has 1-for-9 (.111) with five strikeouts in the series. Not very good, I grant you. However, he was robbed of an RBI hit in the first inning of Game 1 by second baseman Roberto Andino’s lucky grab of a line drive headed for center field that instead became a double play.
Anyone who recalls the way Girardi flummoxed on a nightly basis about his batting order when A-Rod was on the disabled list in July and August should not be stunned to see him pretty much leave things alone. Girardi has a thing about not stacking his left-handed hitters, which if he bats Robinson Cano third and drops Rodriguez to sixth he would be doing with four consecutive left-handed hitters.
And it is important to note that Cano, Curtis Granderson and switch hitters Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher (both of whom bat left-handed against right-handed pitchers) entered Game 3 a combined 0-for-21 against Gonzalez.
Too much has been made in the press about the situation in 2006 when then Yankees manager Joe Torre dropped Rodriguez into the 8-hole when he was slumping in that year’s ALDS. The situation then had more to do with Torre’s not notifying A-Rod about the move before posting the lineup card, a severe breach of clubhouse etiquette on the manager’s part.
Girardi was not with the Yankees in 2006 (he was managing the Marlins), but his explanation seemed to reflect on that instance.
“I think whenever you move a player, it has a chance not only to affect the player but also the whole team, too,” Girardi said. “There are different things you have to worry about. Sometimes moving one player causes you to move two or three or maybe even four because our lineup is built around somewhat protecting our left-handed hitters from matchups. That’s a concern, too.”
Another Girardi decision that may be a topic of debate among fans is his notifying Phil Hughes that he would be the Game 4 starting pitcher regardless of the outcome of Game 3. There has been speculation in the media that Girard should bring CC Sabathia on short rest to start Game 4 if the Yankees should lose Game 3 and fall behind, 2-1, in the best-of-5 series.
I think Joe is right. Look at it this way. If the Yankees lose Game 3, they would need to win two more games to take the series. So they are going to need Hughes to start one of those games. It is not a good idea to have Andy Pettitte, 40 and not far removed from a broken leg, start Game 5 on short rest. So if you need Hughes to be in the rotation, what difference does it make if it is Game 4 or Game 5? There is no point in putting in Hughes’ mind that he is not capable of winning an important game.