My Mother always taught me if it isn’t broke, don’t try to fix it. Apparently New York Yankee manager Joe Girardi doesn’t subscribe to that line of thinking. After a sweep of the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series, Girardi decided to switch the order of his starting pitchers from the first round, as well as announce AJ Burnett, 10-15, 5.26 ERA during the season, as the game four starter. Yankee ace CC Sabathia is of course the first starter of any series, but the switching of Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes was a critical move that went wrong.
In an alternate reality, with Andy Pettitte starting game two, and giving you exactly what he gave you in game three, and the Texas Rangers getting exactly they got from Colby Lewis, then the Yankees may have won game two, went up 2-0 in the series, going back to Yankee Stadium for three games. As Yankee radio announcer John Sterling would say, “Game over. American League Championship Series over. Yankees win. THE Yankees WIN!” There is no way in the world I could have seen the Rangers rebounding from a crushing game one loss and a game two loss to the pitcher with the most wins in playoff history. Would not have happened.
Maybe Pettitte throws a shutout if he starts game two, maybe he gets rocked, but, if he gave you exactly what he gave you in game three, if he was Andy Pettitte, and Lewis gave you what he gave you in game two, then this is a game that goes into the bullpens, and, perhaps to extra innings, tied at two. I like the Yankee chances in that situation. Unfortunately for Yankee fans, Phil Hughes started the crucial game two road game, and didn’t pitch well, giving up seven earned runs in four innings. Pettitte, meanwhile, got matched up with Ranger ace Cliff Lee, who pitched eight shutout innings, which offset the seven innings and two runs Pettitte gave you in game two.
You pitch your best pitchers first during the series. Perhaps the Rangers wouldn’t have been intimidated by Pettitte, but facing the pitcher with the most post season wins has to be a more daunting task than facing a pitcher making his second career post season start.
In game four, Girardi should have started Sabathia. There is an article I posted over a week ago that discusses this in detail at http://razzandjazzsports.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/girardi-needs-to-start-sabathia-in-game-four-by-derrel-jazz-johnson/
So, instead of possibly preparing for game one of the World Series in San Francisco, the Yankees have gone fishing, and Yankee fans are left to wonder what could have been. With three (Pettitte, Rivera, Derek Jeter) of the core four free agents, and the fourth aging catcher Jorge Posada, this may be the end of a great Yankee run that began in 1996. A run that could have ended with another World Series title if Girardi managed better.