Joe Girardi pulling a pitcher with two outs when he doesn’t need to is nothing new. He’s done it plenty of times this year, and truth be told, it’s worked for him more often than it hasn’t. But usually, there’s a logic to it: a one-off lefty-righty matchup, a starter who’s out of gas, or trying to squeeze an extra third of an inning out of one of his better relief pitchers. None of that came into play last night.
It appears as though last night’s move was all about Howie Kendrick. The Fanhouse this morning offers a potential line of thinking based on advance scouting, which boils down to the fact that the Yankees have always had trouble getting inside on Kendrick. And since he had already collected two hits on fastballs, they hoped to get him out with softer stuff from Alfredo Aceves rather than relative heat from Robertson. After the game, both Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland said that they liked the matchup of Aceves against Kendrick.
There are at least two problems with this. One is obvious: Robertson had been pitching well (not just last night, but in the series), and there’s no reason to think he couldn’t have gotten that third out. Aceves, meanwhile, was shaky in Game 2, allowing what would have been the game-winning run to score, had A-Rod not saved the day. (Speaking of A-Rod, Girardi might also want to consider swapping Posada and Matsui in the lineup if he’s going to pinch run for Hideki. There’s little reason to pitch to Rodriguez late if his protection is Brett Gardner or Freddy Guzman or even Jerry Hairston.)
Anyway, the other problem with bringing in Aceves to pitch specifically to Kendrick is that if Kendrick gets on base (a distinct possibility), he’s stuck with Aceves. Girardi has managed the last two games as if they were going to go only nine innings. And while it’s great he has that type of confidence in his club, it also means he’s going to get to the end of his bullpen sooner should the game go to extra innings. Bringing in Aceves mid-inning maybe makes sense, under the right circumstances, if they have a lead in the sixth. It makes a lot less sense if they’re tied in the eleventh. Managing for specific matchups in extra innings just isn’t worth it.
Maybe, as Mike Vaccaro suggests in the Post, Girardi was feeling bulletproof, having made so many moves that hadn’t come back to cost them. (Though last night, bringing in Aceves wasn’t the only debatable decision he made.) But it can be said with confidence that, as of last night, he’s not bulletproof anymore.