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.

Cubs to activate Craig Kimbrel on Thursday

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The Cubs will activate reliever Craig Kimbrel ahead of Thursday afternoon’s game against the Braves, Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic reports.

Kimbrel, 31, ended a seven-month stint in free agency, agreeing to a three-year, $43 million contract with the Cubs earlier this month. He has made four minor league appearances, allowing one earned run on two hits and a walk with four strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings.

With an aggregate 3.96 ERA entering Wednesday, the Cubs’ bullpen has been among the better bullpens in the league. Adding Kimbrel, one of the greatest closers of all-time, certainly can’t hurt and will give them some stability in save situations.