Before last night's game, everything was going right for the New York Yankees, more or less.
Their bullpen had been exactly as advertised, combining for six scoreless innings and Mariano Rivera had three saves in as many chances.
Then it all came crashing down last night.
CC Sabathia was stellar, throwing seven shutout innings. He allowed just two hits, walked one and struck out six. With his pitch count at 104, manager Joe Girardi decided his lefty had thrown enough and opted to use Rafael Soriano in the eighth inning.
Sabathia got the final out of the seventh inning by getting Jason Kubel to pop out to shortstop Derek Jeter. It was the 17th consecutive out for Sabathia.
Soriano had already thrown two scoreless innings in previous games, so Girardi was right to be confident.
But Soriano walked Danny Valencia to start the inning and got Justin Morneau, who had pinch hit for Jason Repko, to line out before he walked Jim Thome, who had pinch hit for Alexi Casilla.
Soriano then gave up a single to Denard Span to load the bases. He struck out Tsuyoshi Nishioka but then proceeded to walk Joe Mauer to give the Twins their first run of the game.
Girardi pulled Soriano for David Robertson, who gave up the bases-clearing double to Delmon Young to tie the game, 4-4.
The Twins took the lead on Mauer's RBI single in the top of the 10th inning off Boone Logan, and the Twins broke the curse of Yankee Stadium with a 5-4 win.
The Yankees are still 3-2 and as far as I know, nobody has ever won or lost a championship in April. But this loss still hurts for the Yankees, mainly because their impressive bullpen—thought to be their biggest strength—couldn't get the job done.
But should Girardi have kept Sabathia in the game to pitch the eighth inning?
Sabathia was up to 104 pitches—a lot for the average pitcher, but Sabathia is a workhorse. Last season, he averaged 105.4 pitches per start.
In the top of the eighth inning, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire pinch hit for Repko and Casilla, both of whom are right-handed batters. Had Sabathia remained in the game, it's unlikely Gardenhire would have pinch hit for both of them because Morneau and Thome are both left-handed and are batting under .200 lifetime against Sabathia.
Repko was 0-for-2 with a strikeout against Sabathia up to that point in the game. Casilla was 0-for-2, but a lifetime .600 hitter against Sabathia.
But the way Sabathia was pitching, it wouldn't have mattered.
Regardless, whether Girardi had left Sabathia in, he most likely would not have yielded the same results as Soriano and Robertson combined to do. Another scoreless inning from Sabathia, the Yankees take their 4-0 lead into the ninth for Mariano Rivera and that's that.
Despite that seemingly guaranteed path to a win, removing Sabathia after seven innings was the right thing to do. There's no reason to push Sabathia past 104 pitches this early in the season and not with a Sunday start against the Red Sox in Boston coming up.
Nine times out of 10, the Yankee bullpen is going to hold a 4-0 lead, especially with just six outs to go.
The double that Young hit off of Robertson that scored three and tied the game at four was a simple bloop. A little wind and that ball is caught by Nick Swisher. It was a tough break for the Yankees, but that is going to happen.
The Yankees will look to take another game from the Twins with Freddy Garcia on the mound against Carl Pavano. With Garcia on the mound, it's likely the Yankees are going to have to get into their bullpen early.
Hopefully, this time it'll go their way.
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