Wherefore Art Thou, Rivera?

Tied going into the bottom of the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th innings, not once did Joe Girardi even warm up Mariano Rivera. Saving him to preserve a lead the Yankees would never get, Girardi deployed every available reliever except for the team’s best. He sent Chad Gaudin out in the bottom of the 14th, who predictably allowed the winning run to score. And so Rivera – owner of 1,108 innings of 203 ERA+ performance, who last pitched on Thursday – finished the day exactly where he started: on the bench.

One day, managers will realize that a tied, extra-innings game on the road is a higher leverage situation than protecting a small lead on the road. In the former situation, the game is over if the home team scores. In the latter, well, it isn’t. It’s pretty simple stuff. I’m already dreading Tuesday’s game against the Orioles, when the Yankees will be up by several runs, and Girardi will use Rivera because “he hasn’t been able to work much lately.” That’s going to be a blast.

Managers may say they’re serious about winning. But until this widespread practice changes, I simply cannot take that assertion seriously.

UPDATE: From Chad Jennings’ fantastic blog:

Because this was a road game, Girardi said he never considered using Mariano Rivera with the game tied. “It’s not something we like to do,” he said. “If you’re going to go two innings with him, it’s something you might do, but I wasn’t going to use Mo for two innings today.”

And this exchange:

Q: Joe, some people would say that, even if you’re only going to pitch him one inning, you can lengthen the game, use your best reliever to go longer, and then figure out how to close it later. Why don’t you agree with that?

I did a Tiger Woods fist pump when I heard this question. To whoever asked this question: well, well done. Intelligent people everywhere thank you for your service. Now, the answer:

A: Well, we had opportunities to win the game. It’s not our pitching why we lost the game. And if I went to Mo in the 10th or the 11th, who knows, they might have scored in the 15th anyway. So, I mean, when you look at this game, we just didn’t hit well enough to win.

Sometimes, I can’t believe Girardi majored in industrial engineering at Northwestern.


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