Something had to change for New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez in Game 4 of the 2012 ALDS, and manager Joe Girardi knew just what button to push. The skipper decided to slide the star slugger down to fifth in the batting order, per ESPNNewYork.com senior writer Andrew Marchand via Twitter:
Jeter DH, Tex 3rd, A-Rod 5th, Raul not starting— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) October 11, 2012
While the move may not sit well with A-Rod himself, it's the right call nonetheless.
Other notable players will be taking on different roles in the lineup as well, and all the factors in play tilt in Rodriguez's favor. Robinson Cano is the team's best all-around hitter, and leaving him in the cleanup spot should help drive runs home early.
Derek Jeter is on a tear thus far, batting a series-best .462 through three games, while Ichiro Suzuki is among the best at getting on base in the game
Power hitter Mark Teixeira has risen to the third slot, which should provide him with even more confidence and an ideal position to drive in runs.
None of this involves Rodriguez—and that's the point. He doesn't have to be a tone-setter in Thursday night's Game 4 at Yankee Stadium. With the Baltimore Orioles facing elimination on the road, the Yankees clearly have the upper hand in this one.
Jumping on shaky starter Joe Saunders early would boost Rodriguez, who is 8-for-20 lifetime against the Baltimore lefty, according to ESPNNewYork.com's Mark Simon.
In the same piece, Simon also notes that Saunders has a 3-1 record against the Yankees but a 5.82 ERA. Girardi's reshuffling of the lineup lends itself to putting runs on the board early.
The pinch hit for Rodriguez by Raul Ibanez in Game 3 netted the game-tying, two-run homer to force extra innings. That had to be a blow to the notoriously egomaniacal Rodriguez, but it's also worth noting how successful A-Rod has been at the No. 5 spot.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, it may have been the best possible place for Girardi to maneuver him.
A-Rod is batting 5th for the Yankees, a spot he has only 13 AB in during the postseason. But it's his most productive spot in the order during his regular-season career.
It's not often the stat geeks don't have precise numbers to back themselves up, but I will trust their judgment on this one barring a later update.
Girardi is fighting through the loss of his father, who passed away this past Saturday. Despite managing with a heavy heart, he is making all the right moves for New York.
This may sound like praise for Girardi, as he perceptibly buries Rodriguez in the lineup. That's not the case. It is simply a savvy move by a veteran manager, and it will result in a breakout game for A-Rod, who is currently batting .083 in the ALDS.
Plenty of critics will expect Rodriguez to crumble, but the matchup against Saunders—and the revamped chemistry of the new batting order—will prove otherwise.