Over the last two nights, Brian Bruney has entered in the 8th inning with the Yankees leading by two runs to an overwhelming chorus of groans from Yankees fans. On Wednesday night, he notched just one out before allowing a home run to Nolan Reimold. Last night, he tossed a perfect 8th before walking the only batter he faced in the 9th, at which point Damaso Marte entered and finished the game. Many Yankees fans questioned Joe Girardi’s continued use of Bruney in big spots, noting that it did not give the Yankees their best chance to win each individual game. However, it seems clear that Joe Girardi knows exactly what to do with a 7.5 game lead, and his usage of Bruney makes perfect sense.
At this point, winning the individual game is just one of two parallel goals. The Yankees need to discover exactly who they can trust in big spots in postseason games, as well as rest some older players and have them fresh for the playoffs. With a large lead in the division and an insurmountable lead over any possible wild card competition, the manager has the luxury of putting players in some positions that you may not want them in during a must-win game. This allows Girardi to determine whether he can count on those players to get important outs in pressure filled situations during October. By throwing guys like Bruney, Robertson, and Marte into the fire, Joe can figure out who he might want on the postseason roster, and who he would bring in with two on and two out in the 6th inning of a 1-run ALDS game.
Thus far, it is evident that Rivera, Hughes, Aceves, Coke, and Robertson are going to make the postseason roster. Damaso Marte has only tossed 4.1 innings since returning, but his stellar performance (5 K’s, 1BB, 0H, 0R) and status as a second lefty make him a likely addition to the roster as well. Assuming the Yankees carry 11 pitchers, that last spot will come down to Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin, possibly Mark Melancon, and Bruney. These last few weeks are perfectly suited for ferreting out the best option among these players and gauging just how trustworthy guys like Marte, Coke, and Robertson are. So far, Girardi has done a credible job of using the Yankees’ lead wisely. It should result in the Yankees carrying their best possible mix into October.
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