This was fun. The Yankees took the lead in the top of the ninth last night on a Nick Swisher home run, but the inning ended a pitch later when Mark Teixeira was thrown out trying to leg out a double. The half-inning ended so quickly that Joe Girardi barely had time to get Mariano Rivera up to start throwing — it was a save situation now, don’t you know — and it was so obvious that even Rick Sutcliffe noticed it.
Despite the fact that he was seen putting on his jacket and toweling off in the top half of the inning — the universal sign for “I’m totally done pitching in this game — Andy Pettitte came out to take his warmup pitches in the bottom of the ninth. Before he could throw a pitch, however, Joe Girardi came out and called for Rivera, who had finally warmed up. I don’t think I was imagining Francisco Cervelli laughing a bit as he came out to the mound for the switcheroo.
Ron Gardenhire didn’t find it so funny:
“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 isn’t the first time such a thing has happened — I want to say I remember Bobby Cox doing this with Mark Wohlers or John Rocker or someone in the 90s — and I can’t really see how it prejudices the hitting team, but it is the kind of thing that feel, I dunno, weird.
But maybe the weirdest thing about it is why Joe Girardi didn’t just leave Pettitte out there anyway. He had only thrown 94 pitches and Rivera had already pitched in the resumption of the suspended game. The answer can’t be that Pettitte was tired, because if that were the case he would have been tired even if the game had remained tied. Girardi didn’t have anyone warming up before the Swisher homer, however, so I’m going to assume that if the game had stayed tied Pettitte would’ve pitched the ninth.
So basically all of that shuffling was designed to get Mariano Rivera a save. Ah, the save: the only statistic that dictates how the game is played rather than merely reflects what happens.