Since Nick Swisher's go-ahead home run came with two outs in the top half of the inning and Mark Teixeira made an out three pitches later trying to leg out a double, Mariano Rivera had barely any time to warm up before he came in to protect the one run lead.
With the lefty Justin Morneau up and Andy Pettitte having thrown only 94 pitches, it seemed plausible that Girardi would let Andy stay in for at least one more batter. However, he let Pettitte take the mound and throw his warm up pitches only to remove him without facing a batter when the inning was about to resume, thereby securing an extra eight or so pitches for Rivera.
When it happened last night, Matt voiced his objections on The Twitters, saying:
This is a pet peeve of mine. If a pitcher takes the mound at the start of an inning, he should have to face 1 batter unless there's a PH.
Asked if he ever thought Pettitte actually would throw a pitch in the ninth, Gardenhire said, "No, he wasn't going to throw a pitch. That was kind of tired, to tell you the truth. You don't know normally get that long between innings to do all that, but we know what's going on there."
"That's a situation Major League Baseball needs to take care of when stuff like that happens. You don't have a guy ready in the bullpen, if your starter goes out there, he should have to face a hitter. That's just the way it should be. If you don't get a guy up, that's the way it should be, unless the other team makes a change."
"But that's not what lost the game for us. That's stuff that just gets old right there."This is somewhat similar to the issue that Joe Girardi protested the game against the Red Sox about. The difference is that Girardi was taking advantage of a loophole in the rules whereas the Sox didn't have any ulterior motives but made a slight procedural error.
I think this transaction speaks to a larger issue, though. The one of Girardi feeling like he absolutely needed Rivera for all three outs despite the fact that he pitched earlier in the day. Would it have been the worst thing in the world if Pettitte, who had pitched pretty damn well and was still very effective in the inning before, faced one left handed batter and gave Mo the appropriate amount of time to get ready?
I often struggle to understand Girardi's moves as a manager but I've found one tendency that he is incredibly consistent in displaying. If the game is tight, he will exert every ounce of control over it that he can. Like in the seventh inning of the game Javy Vazquez started against the Mets when Joe went through three pitchers before they got two outs despite the fact that there were still two more innings left to pitch. Just yesterday, he didn't want to announce who would be pitching when the first game resumed because then the Twins could have... um... I don't know, done something with that information, maybe?
Honestly, part of the reason that this kind of stuff frustrates me is that I hate commercial breaks and Girardi makes so damn many mid-inning pitching changes it's like he has a clause in his contract that gives him a percentage of the ad revenue. Those are usually the times when the game is on the line and we all have to sit through two minutes and thirty seconds of shitty advertising because the other team's backup catcher is left handed.
Clearly his bullpen management has been one of Girardi's strengths in his time with the Yankees but that's partially because he has Rivera as a rock at the end of it. What's going to happen when someone less trustworthy is responsible for nailing down saves? Will he still sit on his hands and watch things unfold?
During that game against the Mets I likened Girardi with a slim lead to a kid holding a pet rabbit. He holds it like a vise grip because he doesn't want to let it get away. But sometimes he ends up strangling it in the process. You want your manager to do what he can to win every single game, but was it necessary to rush Rivera and make sure that he was in there for all three outs given that he had pitched earlier in the day? If there's any chance that he's nursing an injury or could have hurt himself as a result, the answer is obviously "no".