We will have a full recap later in the day, but the big story in today’s loss to the Royals was Joe Girardi’s bullpen deployment at the end of the game. Joba Chamberlain went 6 and left with the Yankees holding a 4-3 lead. Brian Bruney pitched a perfect 7th, and Damaso Marte got two lefties to start the 8th. Billy Butler, a righty, pinch hit for lefty Mike Jacobs, prompting Joe to go to Jose Veras, who issued a five pitch walk. Phil Coke was then brought in to face switch hitter Brayan Pena, who doubled. Two righties later, it was 6-4, and the backlash against the manager began.
There were a few instances that have been questioned in the hours since the game:
1) Removing Joba after 6 innings and 87 pitches. I have no issue with this one. It was Joba’s first start of the year, and most of it was played in damp conditions. Considering that Joba has an innings limit, it makes sense to conserve some of the bullets in his arm.
2) Removing Bruney even though he cruised through the 7th. This I only heard once or twice, and with good reason. With two lefties coming up, there was no reason to leave Bruney in with Marte available.
3) Removing Marte after two hitters due to the insertion of a middling right-handed batter. This holds a bit more merit, although I disagree with the criticism. The reason you carry twelve pitchers is exactly for a situation such as this one- they needed one out to get to Mariano, and setting the platoon situation to your advantage always makes sense in that spot.
4) Going to Veras instead of Mariano- This was the right move as well. Going to Mo in those conditions for more than one inning following shoulder surgery would not have been a prudent move. The remainder of the bullpen should be able to notch one out.
5) Pulling Veras for Coke- This is where Joe lost me. Veras came in and walked a batter. However, the next hitter was Brayan Pena, a weak hitting switch-hitter. They gained no platoon advantage from the move, and the fact that the next two batters were righties made the decision look worse. Joe should have stayed with Veras, or possibly gone with Edwar (why was he guaranteed a roster spot if he was not going to be used in big spots?). Coke has not proven that he can be trusted in that spot to this point, and there was no reason to put the game on his shoulders.
Ultimately, I think Joe made one mistake, in pulling Veras for Coke. It cost the Yankees the game, and will likely be rehashed should the team miss the postseason by the narrowest of margins. However, ultimately the relievers need to make pitches, and they did not today. Outside of Rivera, Bruney, or Marte, I cannot imagine that anyone is safe with Robertson and Melancon lurking in the minors. Veras and Coke, in particular, need to pick it up, or they may find themselves on a bus to Scranton soon enough.
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