2012 ALDS: Lineup Changes the New York Yankees Must Make for Crucial Game 3
Getting a win at Camden Yards with the next three games to be played at Yankee Stadium would seem to put the Yanks in a good position to win the series. Yet the performance of the lineup in Game 2, scoring two runs despite nine hits, apparently has the Yankees and their fans nervous.
Perhaps the anxiety is justified. According to ESPN New York's Matt Ehalt, losing Game 2 of an ALDS hasn't led to success in recent Yankees playoff history. Since 2002, the Yanks have lost every ALDS in which they won the first game, but lost Game 2. In each of those series, the Yankees also went on to lose Game 3—and were eventually eliminated.
To avoid falling behind in yet another ALDS, Yankees manager Joe Girardi will probably make some changes to his lineup for Game 3. The most obvious move to make would be pushing Alex Rodriguez down in the batting order. Rodriguez has batted third in the first two games of the series and has hit 1-for-9 (.111) with five strikeouts.
But how far should Girardi move his third baseman down in the lineup? Are we looking at a repeat of the 2006 ALDS, when manager Joe Torre infamously batted Rodriguez eighth in Game 4 of the series? Given how much that damaged the relationship between Torre and Rodriguez, Girardi probably won't make quite so drastic a move.
Let's first talk about who would replace A-Rod in the No. 3 hole. Robinson Cano seems to be the obvious candidate, as Girardi can just bump him up from the cleanup spot.
Conventional baseball wisdom says a team's best hitter should bat third anyway. Cano is certainly the Yanks' best hitter, batting .313 with a .929 OPS, 33 home runs and 94 RBI during the regular season. In the first two games of the ALDS, he went 2-for-8 (.250) with three RBI.
As Newsday's Marc Carig tweeted, the dilemma becomes who would bat behind Cano and prevent him from being pitched around or outright walked.
But that's a problem no matter where Cano hits. In the seventh inning of Game 2, Cano was intentionally walked in the seventh inning even though he was the go-ahead run. But Nick Swisher was 1-for-19 against Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz. That stat became 1-for-20 after Swisher flew out.
(Carig's tweet might have been sarcastic. Actually, it probably was. The man is known for such things if you follow his Twitter feed regularly.)
However, Girardi should move Cano up to the third spot if for no other reason than getting him an extra plate appearance during a ballgame.
So who bats behind Cano? I would put Mark Teixeira in the cleanup spot behind Cano. He's hitting well in the series thus far, batting 4-for-8 with a walk and RBI. Like Swisher, Teixeira is also a switch-hitter, which prevents the Orioles from bringing in a lefty reliever to pitch to two consecutive hitters.
From there, Swisher could bat behind Teixeira. With two switch-hitters batting back-to-back, O's manager Buck Showalter can't automatically go with the lefty-lefty or righty-righty matchup with a reliever.
Logically, Rodriguez would bat sixth after Swisher. Some Yankees fans might prefer for A-Rod to be benched entirely in favor of Eric Chavez, given how terrible he looks at the plate right now.
But as the Journal News' Chad Jennings points out, Rodriguez did hit a couple of balls hard on Monday. One in particular was erased by a great diving stab by Baltimore second baseman Robert Andino, resulting in a double play rather than an RBI single.
Girardi should put Chavez in the lineup, however, as the designated hitter over Raul Ibanez. He could bat ninth after Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin, though moving him up in the order to bat fifth or sixth would be an option, as well.
So in my view, the Yankees' lineup should look like this in Game 3:
Is that a drastic enough lineup change to make a difference, or should Girardi be bolder?
Should A-Rod bat even lower than sixth? Should Martin or Chavez bat in the fourth or fifth spot? What about batting Granderson third, perhaps giving him better pitches to hit batting in front of Cano?
Or should Girardi stick with his batting order? The Yankees did score seven runs in Game 1, after all.
Rodriguez is looking like an automatic out right now. He's killing some potential big innings by batting so ineffectively in a key spot in the lineup. At the very least, Girardi has to be thinking strongly about moving Rodriguez down—maybe even as low as Torre did in 2006.
What changes would you make in the Yankees lineup for Game 3?
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