Girardi's gaffes give Angels new life

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Too much stupidity on the basepaths prevented it from being a great game, but Monday’s ALCS Game 3 was another exciting contest, one that will keep the second guessers going all night long following the Angels’ 5-4 win in 11 innings.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi will catch all of the flak after his team lost for the first time in six postseason games. The decision to pull David Robertson after he faced just two batters, retiring both, will be the one under the microscope.
However, the truly awful decision was pulling Johnny Damon with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 10th. Girardi thought a better arm might make a difference, so he inserted Jerry Hairston Jr., even though Mariano Rivera allows relatively few flyballs to left field.
The move would have been more defensible, though still undesirable, had Hairston come in off the bench. However, Hairston had already been inserted into the game as a designated hitter when he batted for Brett Gardner in the top of the ninth. The move meant the Yankees would lose their DH with the spot due up third in the top of the 11th.
Of course Rivera, being Rivera, pitched out of the jam, without any help from Hairston. But the switch meant that Rivera would have to either hit in the 11th or be removed from the game. Girardi opted to pull him and use Francisco Cervelli. Cervelli fanned, and Robertson came in to pitch the bottom of the 11th.
After Robertson got two outs by throwing 11 pitches, there was another shocking move. Out came Robertson and in came fellow right-hander Alfredo Aceves. The switch likely had something to do with Robertson throwing 33 pitches on Saturday, but if it made sense to use him to get two outs to start an inning, it certainly made sense to keep him in to face another right-hander. Besides, it wasn’t a real 33-pitch outing for Robertson on Saturday. Intentional walks accounted for one-quarter of those pitches.
The moves backfired in spectacular fashion. Howie Kendrick singled off Aceves and Jeff Mathis followed up with a game-winning double over the head of Hairston in left. It was a ball that likely would have eluded Damon as well, but the natural outfielder would have made a better run at it.
The hit was redemption for Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who had his own non-move that seemed to backfire in the 10th. After Mathis led off that inning with a double, Scioscia could have had Reggie Willits run in his place. Had he done so, there’s a good chance the Angels would have ended the game in the frame, as Willits shouldn’t have had any problem scoring from third on a Chone Figgins grounder to first that forced Mark Teixiera into a dive. Mathis opted to hold on the groundout and was stranded at first. It was an uncharacteristic decision from the typically aggressive Scioscia, but one that worked out just fine when Mathis won the game in the 11th.

Ryan Zimmerman’s spring training has been . . . weird

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Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has played in exactly one Grapefruit league game this year, and that was way back on March 2. Since then he has been totally absent from the Nats’ big league spring games, playing instead on the back fields in sim games and in minor league contests.

While that’s not an unusual course of action for an injured or rehabbing player, both Zimmerman and the Nationals insist that there is nothing wrong with him. Per this report from MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, they’re saying that Zimmerman “simply prefers to get his work done in the more controlled environment of minor league games, where the rules are lax.” He doesn’t have to dive for balls, he can lead off every inning, etc. Manager Dave Martinez says Zimmerman simply doesn’t like the usual spring training grind and that this is working for him so he’s fine with it too.

Are you buyin’ that? Not sure I’m buyin’ that.

I suppose weirder things have happened. The Minnesota Twins once let Jack Morris go back to his farm in between starts rather than stay with the club. Other accommodations have been made for veterans, especially in spring training. But this is way more in keeping with a team hiding an injury. Though I have no idea why the Nats would choose to hide an injury to Zimmerman. They’ve talked at length about Daniel Murphy‘s knees and Adam Eaton‘s seemingly never-ending rehab. If Zimmerman has some aches and pains, you’d think they’d talk about it.

On the other hand, if this is a legit story and it is simply an accommodation for a veteran who doesn’t like the normal spring training grind, look for Zimmerman to be a trailblazer, because there are a LOT of dudes who hate spring training too and would love to change things up like this.