‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Formerly fearsome hitters Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez could both be sacrificed in a drastically different Yankees lineup for Friday’s all-deciding ALDS Game 5.
Granderson has done nothing to keep his place in the lineup. His wasteful at-bats have gotten worse as the series has gone along, and he expands the strike zone by swinging at balls in the dirt. Granderson is 1-for-16 (.062) in the ALDS with a whopping total of nine strikeouts.
Rodriguez has proven to be over-matched against right-handed pitchers. His slow bat cannot catch up to the offerings of hard-throwing righties. A-Rod is 0-for-12 with nine strikeouts against RHPs in the ALDS. In Game 4, Tommy Hunter blew away Rodriguez with upper-90s heat and tonight’s starter Jason Hammel has the kind of velocity that A-Rod can’t handle.
Eric Chavez is 0-for-5 in the ALDS, but has the advantage of being a left-handed hitter and has done a better job grinding out at-bats than A-Rod during the series.
The Yankees cannot afford to keep giving at-bats to players who look completely lost at the plate. They desperately need left-handed Raul Ibanez in their Game 5 lineup against a power righty in Hammel.
Joe Girardi could move Ichiro to center field and play Ibanez in left, but Ibanez’s 40-year-old legs are a major concern. His lack of range hurts the Yankees defensively and he should only be inserted into the lineup as a designated hitter.
Derek Jeter’s health appears to have improved to the point that he will be able to play shortstop in Game 5. He was running down the first base line with full effort without noticeably limping.
Obviously, Jeter isn’t 100 percent and fouled multiple pitches off his troublesome left foot, but having him at shortstop is vital given the need to pencil in Ibanez at DH.
It would not be surprising to see an outfield alignment of Ichiro-Gardner-Swisher in Girardi’s Game 5 lineup. Gardner isn’t fully healthy, but works pitchers, doesn’t give away at-bats like Granderson and can bunt runners over. Even at less than 100 percent, he is a superior defensive center fielder compared to Granderson and has familiarity with the position that Ichiro lacks.
Runs have come few and far between in the past three ALDS games between the Yankees and the O’s. Ibanez’s questionable defense cannot be tested in one of the corner outfield spots and Ichiro-Gardner-Swisher is by far the Yankees’ best look defensively.
Nick Swisher came close to going yard in Game 4. Compared to Granderson and A-Rod, his timing looks close. Swisher has proven his plate discipline by walking 2 times and striking out three times during the ALDS. His discipline and ability to break up a lefty-dominant Yankees’ lineup as a switch-hitter are reasons why he must remain in the order for Game 5.
Girardi has no choice but to bench struggling sluggers A-Rod and Granderson and see if Ibanez, Chavez and Gardner can give the Yankees that much-needed spark. Otherwise, the offseason could arrive tonight.
Should A-Rod and Granderson ride the pine in favor of Chavez and Gardner? Sound off below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.