Joe Girardi really wanted to clinch a playoff berth last night. Even with the magic number at one, and five games to play, he started his ace, CC Sabathia, instead of holding him out until Friday, which means that the lefty will pitch next Wednesday’s playoff opener on seven days’ rest instead of the usual four. (It’s possible that Sabathia could make a brief appearance in a game before then, though that’s not quite the same as making a start.)
For someone who’s been managing his club with an eye on the postseason for weeks, it was a debatable decision — a change in course just as they’re about to reach their destination. Perhaps this more urgent mindset began with Phil Hughes’s start on Sunday, or perhaps Girardi really was nervous about a historic Boston comeback, but in any case, you can breathe easy now: Sabathia pitched a gem while the Yankees scored all six of their runs without a single RBI hit, clinching a playoff berth and keeping pace with the also-postseason-bound Rays.
Tonight, though, it’s back to postseason preparation, even more blatantly than before: Javier Vazquez (!) will start instead of Andy Pettitte (who will instead pitch this weekend in advance of his ALDS start), and Girardi has said he’ll rest some of his regulars over the next four games. There’s a division race to be settled still, of course, but winning any more regular-season games is of secondary concern right now. Again.