Joe Girardi didn’t use A-Rod last night because he flirted with those women? Really?

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Ask yourself: do you really believe that Joe Girardi is the type of guy who would base an in-game decision on some fluffy nothing of a story in the New York Post before he’d base it on baseball considerations? If the answer is no, you’re not Bob Klapsich.

Klapisch’s column today tells the story of last night’s game and focuses, like so many others have focused today, on Girardi’s decision to not use A-Rod as a pinch hitter in the ninth.  Klapisch discounts any baseball rationale and says the real reason is tabloid silliness. He references the Post story and says:

A-Rod and GM Brian Cashman refused to discuss the story, but the organization was deeply embarrassed by it, especially since the Yankees were in the midst of getting swept in the first two games at home … So while Girardi insisted his decision to bench A-Rod was strictly a baseball-related move, his refusal to use the slugger in the ninth inning was unquestionably a smack-down for his behavior in New York.

Sorry, even if you claim it was unquestionably a smack-down, I’m gonna question it. I’m gonna question it because Girardi’s own explanation was that to pinch hit A-Rod would cause Leyland to bring in a righty, and there is nothing — not an anonymous quote or even a “sources say” — suggesting otherwise. I’m also going to question it because Girardi has never, as far as I can recall, gotten sucked into the New York tabloid drama, so why would he start now?

I’m sure Girardi wasn’t pleased to have a tabloid story floating around like that. I don’t doubt Klapisch’s report that the team as a whole was embarrassed.  But to believe Klapisch’s hypothesis, you’d have to believe that Girardi legitimately felt that punishing A-Rod for it was more important than putting his team in the best position to win last night. And there is nothing here suggesting such an astounding and unprecedented thing.

What is here is Girardi’s strategic analysis of the platoon problem and, most likely, his gut feeling that Rodriguez has absolutely no game at all right now. While one may reasonably disagree that Girardi’s call was the right one — I would have brought in Swisher, who would’ve eliminated platoon splits from the equation — that’s neither here nor there. Girardi said why he did what he did. To believe that there was more to it than that takes a bit more than someone’s assertion that it was “unquestionably so.”

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.