By Steve Kallas
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It’s beyond stupid. You are up 3-2, 6th inning, A.J. Burnett has done an excellent, better-than-virtually-anybody-thought job of pitching. He had done everything the Yankees had hoped he would do and more – he had given them a chance to win and tie up a series they barely belong being in (based on their play on the field). With a man on second, two out and left-handed hitting (and dangerous) David Murphy coming to the plate, Joe Girardi brought in lefty Boone Logan to pitch to Murphy, right? Wrong. Girardi had Joba Chamberlain warming up in the bullpen, so he brought him in to pitch to Murphy, right? Wrong.
No, Girardi, maybe thinking it was a Little League game or a Tuesday night game in Kansas City in May, defied Baseball 101 and decided to put the go-ahead run on base in what can be argued is an elimination game (or close to it) with Cliff Lee looming in Game 7 (if the Yankees can even get that far).
You know the rest. With men on first and second and Yankee-killer Bengie Molina up, Burnett misses with a fastball on the first pitch and Molina hits a three-run homer. Game over.
Somehow, Girardi wasn’t asked in his post-game press conference (at least what was shown on YES) WHY he would put the go-ahead run on base in a playoff game. He said a lot of stuff about how well Burnett was throwing (true) and about how they “liked” the match-up Burnett v. Molina (that didn’t work out very well). (And for the record, Joba Chamberlain, pitching in the next inning, struck out David Murphy, who was intentionally walked the inning before).
But there’s a reason why you never walk the go-ahead run in a big game or in a Tuesday night game in Kansas City in May.
And Joe Girardi found out why you don’t the hard way.
WHAT DID THE TBS ANNOUNCERS THINK?
Amazingly, John Smoltz, in the next inning, said, “And the right move was made to walk the left-hander to pitch to the right-hander. … So you can’t question that.”
Inexplicably, Ron Darling, who should know better, agreed.
After the game, Josh Hamilton said, “I can’t believe they walked Murphy to pitch to Bengie. He’s been swinging the bat great.”
Even that’s irrelevant. Never, EVER, intentionally walk the go-ahead run. In any game, in any league, at any time (Ok, maybe if it were Babe Ruth or the later edition of Barry Bonds — maybe).
DID THIS REMIND YOU OF JEFF WEAVER?
Back in the 2003 World Series, Joe Torre decided to use Jeff Weaver in a tie game in the 11th inning against the Florida Marlins in Game 4. Hardly anybody thought it was an intelligent idea. Weaver got the Marlins out 1-2-3 in the 11th. A minor miracle and good for him. But when Torre trotted out Weaver for the 12th (with The Great Rivera still in the pen), you got that same feeling of dread that you had in the 11th and that you had last night.
And Alex Gonzalez hit a game-winning home run.
And the Yankees lost the World Series.
Same thing last night. Hardly anybody thought the Yankees would start Burnett. Although one could see, in this case, the intelligence of not wanting all of your starters to go on short rest, it was another hold-your-breath game.
And Burnett did his job.
Until he didn’t.
But that was Joe Girardi’s fault, not A.J. Burnett’s.
And the Yankees probably paid for that with their season.
TWO SEPARATE, FINAL THOUGHTS
1) If Nelson Cruz knew how to hook slide or even where to run in the base path (outside, not inside the foul line) coming home from third on a wild pitch in the first inning of Game 1, the Rangers probably would have swept the Yankees in four.
2) If Josh Hamilton ever played his home games in Yankee Stadium, he’d hit 60 homers.