Joba Chamberlain gives up the go-ahead run in the seventh inning. Mariano Rivera throws away a bunt in the 10th. Alfredo Aceves allows the winning run in the 11th.
What in the name of the New York Yankees‘ bullpen is going on?
Manager Joe Girardi’s winning streak in the postseason came to a crashing halt Monday when the Los Angeles Angels beat New York 5-4 to cut their deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-seven AL championship series.
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The 44-year-old Girardi was only the second manager to win his first five postseason games after leading the Yankees to a major league-best 103-59 record in his second season.
But the second-youngest manager in the majors made some curious moves in the late innings of Game 3.
The Yankees used seven pitchers after starter Andy Pettitte allowed three runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings.
Chamberlain lasted one-third of an inning, and gave up a triple to Howie Kendrick and a sacrifice fly by pinch-hitter Maicer Izturis that put the Angels in front for the first time, 4-3.
Then came left-hander Damaso Marte, followed by rookie Phil Coke and Phil Hughes, who pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings.
Hughes allowed Jeff Mathis‘ leadoff double in the 10th before Girardi went to Rivera, who tossed 2 1-3 innings in New York’s 4-3 win in Game 2 on Saturday night.
The All-Star closer escaped a sticky jam – the Angels had the bases loaded with one out – while throwing 17 pitches.
“We thought we had Mo for an inning,” Girardi said. “I didn’t feel that I could stretch him out any further than that in that situation because of what we did the other day with him. So he had that inning, and that was it.”
David Robertson got two quick outs in the 11th, then was pulled for Aceves.
Moments later, the game was over.
Aceves gave up a single to Kendrick and a long RBI double to left-center by Mathis. That left an obvious question: Why did Girardi lift Robertson with two outs and nobody on?
“As far as Robertson, we like the matchup with Ace better, the two guys,” Girardi said. “And it didn’t work.”
Girardi has played matchups with his pitchers and made several quick moves throughout the postseason, wearing out a path from the dugout to the mound.
“He’s not just going with the hot hand,” catcher Jorge Posada said. “He’s going with the guy who’s pitching good, going with the guy who’s going to hit, just trying to win the game.”
Girardi said the only way Rivera would have stayed in the game was if the Yankees had a save situation and they had scored earlier.
“I mean, it’s tough definitely, but you have to do whatever it takes,” Rivera said about adjusting to the quick changes. “It’s a tough decision for the manager. He made the best decision he could make.”
Rivera threw away a bunt by Erick Aybar trying to get a runner at third, leaving the closer flat on the grass yelling at himself, reminiscent of him throwing away a key bunt in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against Arizona.
“I had it, I had it in my palm so it was kind of tough to make a good throw,” Rivera said.
Before he went to Aceves, Girardi was busy consulting a binder of stats in the dugout.
“We have all the matchups, and all the scouting reports, and we felt that it was a better matchup for us,” he said.