The Yankees flew out of Tampa last night after dropping two of three games to the Rays. They return to New York to play the fourth place Blue Jays tonight at the Stadium, holding a slim one-game lead on Tampa. I can't help but think that their lead could be—should be—three games.
Joe Girardi decided not to start Alex Rodriguez and Brett Gardner, and to DH Mark Teixiera yesterday, instead opting to go with Ramiro Pena at third base and new acquisitions Austin Kearns in left with Lance Berkman at first.
I have no issue with players getting a day off now and then. Baseball players are, for the most part, fragile, mentally and physically. But there are a few perplexing things that jump off yesterday's lineup card.
Girardi's reasoning for playing the Junior Varsity (granted, the Yankees version of the JV is still better than many other teams starters) was simple rest.
"I don't wanna blow guys out," Girardi explained. "I might have a sense that some guys need to rest their legs. Information that everyone else may not have. It's important to give guys rest."
Agreed, but resting them all on the same day appears unnecessary when playing a team you're going to be fighting with down the stretch for the Division title. Girardi needs to go for the throat at all times. Why not rest Gardner yesterday, and then A-Rod tonight against the out-of-contention Blue Jays?
Clearly, A-Rod is pressing. The weight of home run No. 600 is evident every time he steps up to the plate now, but what better way to break out of his home run funk (not to be confused with a slump because he is still hitting well and driving in runs) than to hit the milestone dinger in a big game against the Rays?
I know it's only the beginning of August, and I know Girardi has a World Series ring to back up his logic (even if we can't quite figure it out), but if the Yankees lose the Division by one game to Tampa, this Sunday game on the first day of August will loom over Girardi like a black cloud.