An oddly timed benching for Alex Rodriguez

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Alex Rodriguez appears about as helpless as a week-old kitten at the plate at the moment, at least when he’s facing right-handers, but that doesn’t make it any less baffling that manager Joe Girardi chose tonight’s Game 3 to bench him.

That’s because of the four homers the Yankees hit off Justin Verlander this year, Rodriguez was responsible for half of them.

A-Rod is 8-for-24 with three homers, four walks and just three strikeouts lifetime against Verlander. Now, that was probably the old A-Rod, the one who used to make contact more than once per game. Still, he was Girardi’s choice to start Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS despite looking horrible in the ALDS. Why sit him now?

Part of it is probably that Eric Chavez has also had some success against Verlander. In fact, he was 6-for-10 with a couple of doubles against him this year. But if the Yankees wanted, they could have used either A-Rod or Chavez at DH and stuck Raul Ibanez in left field. They were benching Nick Swisher anyway. As is, they decided to give Brett Gardner his first start since April in Swisher’s place, with Ichiro Suzuki shifting from left to right.

The changes leave the Yankees with a starting nine tonight that has four homers in 207 career at-bats against Verlander. Rodriguez and Swisher, in comparison, have combined for six homers in 79 at-bats.

I’m still not against the Rodriguez benching. He’s not the same player he was even earlier this year. It’s the timing of the decision that’s the problem. Rodriguez should have taken his seat prior to Game 2.

Cardinals place Carlos Martinez on 10-day disabled list with oblique strain

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The Cardinals have placed right-hander Carlos Martinez on the 10-day disabled list with a right oblique strain, per a team announcement on Saturday. The move is retroactive to July 20. No definite timetable has been set for his return to the rotation yet, but interim manager Mike Shildt told reporters he feels confident that Martinez will only need to skip one start before taking the mound again.

Martinez, 26, sustained the injury while trying to snare a line drive during Thursday’s 9-6 loss to the Cubs. It hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for the righty this season, as he lost nearly four weeks to a right lat strain and pitched to a 5.32 ERA after returning to the Cardinals’ roster in early June. Overall, however, his numbers look a little stronger: He’s 6-6 in 17 starts with a 3.39 ERA, 4.5 BB/9 and 8.4 SO/9 through 95 2/3 innings.

In a corresponding move, right-handed reliever John Brebbia has been recalled from Triple-A Memphis. The 28-year-old Brebbia has already enjoyed three short-lived stints in the majors this season; he currently holds a cumulative 4.13 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 9.9 SO/9 and two saves in 32 2/3 innings with the club.