It is not very often you can ask if going to Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning of a one-run game is the right move for the New York Yankees. Wednesday night's 15-inning 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles provides such an opportunity, however.
Yankee Manager Joe Girardi lifted starting pitcher Bartolo Colon after eight shutout innings, despite Colon having allowed only three hits and having thrown just 87 pitches. After Rivera blew the save and set off a marathon, Girardi was forced to defend the move.
"I have Mariano Rivera, that's why I made the move,"Girardi said simply. That, almost always is the end of the discussion, and the correct answer.
Last night, though? I believe Girardi was wrong, and it is one of the things about baseball that drives me crazy. You don't take a dominating pitcher out of a game, especially one with a low pitch count, just because it is the ninth inning and that is someone else's job. You let the dominating pitcher finish dominating.
This is Girardi doing the safe thing. Doing the thing that allowed him to say exactly what he said after the game -- I had Mariano Rivera in there, and I dare you to argue with that. That's a manager covering his backside in case his choice flops.
The gutsy thing to do -- and more often that not the correct one -- is to leave the dominating starting pitcher in the game. Of course, if Colon gives up the tying run or loses the game this leaves Girardi open to the 'how could you possibly leave Mariano Rivera in the bullpen in a one-run game?" line of questioning. Since Rivera is going to the Hall of Fame and Colon is lucky to be resuscitating his career, Girardi can say he made the percentage call.
He just didn't make the one that took courage. Or the right one.
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