For the second consecutive night, the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles played well into extra innings. For the second straight night, Alex Rodriguez was lifted for a pinch-hitter with the game on the line. The man who has signed the top two richest contracts in baseball history has been reduced to a replaceable part with the game on the line.
By now, everyone has heard the story of Wednesday night. Trailing by a run with just two skinny outs remaining, Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulled Rodriguez back in favor of Raul Ibanez. All Ibanez did was launch a solo homer off O’s closer Jim Johnson to force extra innings. He then won the game with another homer in the 12th.
After the game, Rodriguez said all the right things. It was difficult to complain, really, because the move had ultimately worked and the team had won a crucial playoff game.
When the same situation presented itself on Thursday night, Girardi once again removed Rodriguez from harm’s way and opted for Eric Chavez to face Johnson with a one-run deficit and two outs in the 13th. Isn’t this supposed to be the exact moment that you paid the guy $30 million per season for? To have him at the plate with the game on the line? Instead, Chavez lined out to end the game and push the series to a deciding game on Friday.
When asked about being lifted for a pinch-hitter once again, Rodriguez made it clear that he wasn’t happy.
“No, no — obviously I’ve gotten a look at this guy for a couple of days now,” Rodriguez said of closer Jim Johnson, “and I hoped it was a little bit different today, but it wasn’t.”
Rodriguez is just 2-for-16 in the series thus far and nine of those outs have come via strikeout. He’s not hitting well right now. In a big spot in the eighth inning on Thursday, Girardi allowed Rodriguez to hit against a tough right hander in Darren O’Day, with runners at second and third and one out. The game was tied at a run apiece and all the Yankees needed to take the lead was a sacrifice fly. Rodriguez fanned on four pitches. Rather than be fooled again, Giradri didn’t let ARod have a chance at redemption in the 13th, even as a solo homer was the Bombers’ best chance at tying the game. Rodriguez has 647 career home runs.
In Girardi’s defense, Rodriguez is not only scuffling in this series, but he’s never had much success against Johnson. In 18 career at bats, Rodriguez has managed just three hits and none have gone for extra bases. Rodriguez has had similar struggles versus O’Day, going just 1-for-7 entering play on Thursday.
This is the way things always seem to play out for Rodriguez and the Yankees. A handful of seasons ago, it made headlines when then-Yankee manager Joe Torre dropped his MVP third baseman to eighth in the order in a series versus the Tigers. While it sees every post-season moment for ARod has been disappointing, his playoff numbers were actually quite good up until the past few seasons and he still sports a career playoff OPS of .855.
The beauty of baseball is that yesterday’s goat, or even the guy who was pulled back and not given a chance to be the goat, has a chance to be the hero today. No possible matchup with Baltimore could better favor Rodriguez than the one has has with Game Five starter Jason Hammel. In 29 plate appearances versus the right hander, ARod has reached base 13 times and has clubbed four home runs.
In case you were wondering, Chavez has also homered against Hammel, but it’s his only hit in six tries. My guess is that the $30 million platoon hitter will get his chance to prove himself in the deciding game on Friday.
UPDATE: (2:03 pm) Well, nevermind on that one, I guess. Girardi and the Yankees released their Game Five lineup and Rodriguez is not included. Chavez gets the start at third and hits ninth as Girardi stacks the order with left handed hitters.