In the 8th inning of last night's New York Yankee victory, manager Joe Girardi summoned left handed reliever Damaso Marte to begin the frame. At the time, the Yankees led 8-4, so the game was still within reach of Philadelphia, especially with the middle, power-part of the Phillies hitters due up.
It was a good move by Girardi (one of many he has made this post season), getting the lefty Marte to face Phillies slugger Ryan Howard leading off the inning.
Marte dispatched Howard on five pitches (all strikes), continuing the terrible World Series by the big first baseman. What was uplifting though is that Girardi left Marte in to face the right handed Jayson Werth, who already hit two monstrous home runs in the game.
Marte also struck out Werth (who looked at three called strikes) and then quickly got another lefty, Raul Ibanez, to hit a weak liner to Alex Rodriguez at third base. Marte threw 15 pitches, 13 of which were for strikes.
With Phil Hughes, David Robertson and lefty Phil Coke all available, Girardi could easily have brought in Marte to face Howard, brought in Robertson to face Werth, and then wear out the path to the mound one batter later to bring in Coke to face Ibanez.
And that is what Girardi WOULD have done if he didn't have a change of attitude during the ALCS.
In Game Three of the ALCS against the Los Angeles Angels, Girardi removed an effective Robertosn in the 11th inning to bring in Alfredo Aceves. Aceves promptly gave up two straight hits and the Yankees lost. Girardi used EIGHT pitchers in that game and was roundly criticized for making too many matchup moves.
Since then, Girardi has been more economical with his pitchers (except for Mariano Rivera), and was the reason for leaving Marte in for the entire 8th inning last night.
As many readers of my writings can attest, I have never been a big fan of Damaso Marte, and was highly critical of the last season's trade , which brought Marte (and OF Xavier Nady) to the Yankees.
But last night, Marte combined an unusually high mid-90's fastball (topping out at 95), with his precision placed slider. The key with Marte is that he is locating his slider (and his fastball) very, very well.
In this postseason, Marte has now retired the last nine batters he has faced. He is being used in bigger situations as Girardi begins to gain more trust in the veteran left hander.
He is becoming the next Graeme Lloyd, a former Yankee outcast who made the postseason roster due to being the only other lefty available, but then coming through all postseason long.
Lloyd was a tall Australian who was acquired by the Yankees in Aug. 23, 1996 for durable reliever Bob Wickman and OF Gerald Williams. The Yankees needed another lefty for their bullpen to complement...well, to complement no one because the Yankees had no effective lefty bullpen arm the entire 1996 season.
Lloyd was not particularly impressive after the trade, giving the Yankees 5.2 innings while allowing 12 hits, five walks and 11 earned runs. His ERA was 17.47 and his Yankee WHIP was 3.000.
Still, Yankee manager Joe Torre kept Lloyd as his lefty specialist for the 1996 post season. He responded by throwing 6.1 innings, allowing a single hit, no walks while striking out five hitters. Lloyd continuously faced tough lefty hitters in big situations and proceeded to come through each time.
Tied at six entering the bottom of the 9th inning (in the same game Jim Leyritz hit the big three-run homer off of Mark Wohlers), with one out, Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera allowed a single to Mark Lemke and walked Chipper Jones.
Torre replaced Rivera with Lloyd* to face Braves lefty slugger Fred McGriff, who had homered earlier in the game. With the game and series on the line (if the Braves won they would have taken a commanding 3-1 series lead), Lloyd induced McGriff into an inning ending 6-4-3 double play.
The Yankees would then score two runs in the 10th inning and go on to win Game Four (Lloyd was credited with that win) and eventually win the World Series.
Marte has become the 2009 version of Graeme Lloyd. Marte was injured for most of the season, and when he was available, was largely ineffective and mostly ignored late in the season. His season ERA was a Lloyd-like 9.45 and Marte only appeared in mop up duty in September.
Many people, including me, thought Marte was not going to be on the post season roster, but like Torre did 13 seasons earlier, Girardi showed faith in the veteran Marte and kept him around for his left-leaning ways.
Marte has also been Lloyd-like in this post season, retiring all nine of the batters he has faced in the ALCS and World Series, and has become a thorn in the side of Philadelphia's left handed hitters Chase Utley, Howard and Ibanez. With the struggles of Phil Hughes, it has been interesting to see both Marte and Joba Chamberlain being used more in later inning situations.
While I have not been a fan of Marte's since his arrival in New York, I have written that if he does come through in the 2009 post season, that trade will have a modicum of redemption .
His continued post season success is critical for the Yankees in their drive towards another World Series title.
Who would have thought Graeme Lloyd could be reincarnated?
*Interestingly, Lloyd also appeared in Game Three, also coming in for Rivera, who eventually became the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history. Imagine replacing the great Rivera in back-to-back World Series games.