You're the Manager
OK, you're Joe Girardi. I'd say you're Joe Girardi for a day but, if it was for a day only, you might think differently. So let's just say you're Joe Girardi, the manager of the New York Yankees. You know, the team that is down two games to one in the best-of-four American League Championship Series.
Your club beat the Texas Rangers in the first game by coming back from a 5-0 deficit to score six unanswered runs in the seventh and eighth innings to win 6-5 on the road. You got trounced in the second game of the series, 7-2.
No problem. You did what you had to do. Your team split on the road. Two games down, a maximum of five to go with three of them at home. You've got the AL West champions right where you want them. Except for one thing. You now have to face Cliff Lee. Yes, that Cliff Lee. The guy who knows his way around New York in terms of both the city and your lineup. The 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner throws eight scoreless innings on Monday night, allowing only two hits and one walk while striking out 13 batters in an 8-0 shutout.
Lee improved his postseason record to 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA in eight starts. The southpaw has now beaten the Yankees three times in October, including twice as the ace of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 World Series. He is on one of the best runs in the history of the postseason. Not known as a strikeout pitcher, Lee is the first pitcher to whiff 10 or more batters three consecutive times in the same postseason and is now tied for the lead with Bob Gibson and Randy Johnson with five career postseason games of at least 10 Ks.
With Lee perfectly positioned to start the finale of this series, "the Yankees probably need to win this series in six games and avoid a Game 7" or so says Andrew Marchand. I can't say that I disagree.
As a result, one could argue that the Yankees cannot afford to lose another game in this series. It's not that Lee can't be beaten. It's just that you don't want to go into Game 7 having to beat Lee. To the credit of the Rangers, this is exactly why management traded for him in July. It's hard to believe that someone who has gone 48-25 with a 2.98 ERA and a 5.6 K/BB in the past three regular seasons and 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA and 9.6 K/BB in the past two postseasons has played for four teams (CLE, PHI, SEA, and TEX) during this stretch.
That brings us to Game 4. Your team is now down two games to one. Do you go with AJ Burnett as previously announced or do you pitch CC Sabathia on three days' rest? If you opt for Sabathia, that means you either have to ask both Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte to pitch on short rest or stick AJ in there for Game 5 on Wednesday or Game 6 on Friday. Should you decide on Burnett for Tuesday night, then you won't be able to start CC three times or in the final game vs. Lee in what would be an epic battle of two of the best lefthanders in baseball.
Here are the facts with respect to Burnett:
Remember, you're Joe Girardi. It's your call. Do you stick with Burnett in Game 4 or do you change it up? Sabathia threw just 93 pitches in Game 1. He is 3-1 with a 1.01 ERA and extraordinarily strong peripherals working on three days' rest during the regular season throughout his career. Moreover, don't forget the fact that you asked CC to pitch on short rest against the Los Angeles Angels in the ALCS last year and it worked out pretty darn well. He won both games, fashioning a line of 16-9-2-2-3-12. The big guy started Game 1 on Friday and Game 4 on Tuesday. Sound familiar?
What will it be, Joe?