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Chess Match: Key pitching moves

Chess Match: Key pitching moves

MINNEAPOLIS -- Aside from splendid defense by the Yankees in their three-game sweep of the Twins in the American League Division Series, it was pitching and a few adroit decisions in that area by second-year manager Joe Girardi on Sunday that helped them move on to the AL Championship Series for the first time since 2004.

The Yanks will play the Angels in the best-of-seven ALCS, beginning Friday night at Yankee Stadium. And the way it works out, they'll have ace left-hander and Game 1 winner CC Sabathia on the mound.

"These guys are used to playing at this time of the year, and they seemed to relish the moments -- they seem to enjoy the moments together and what they have been through, coming up together, in a sense," Girardi said. "They know how to play this time of year. The situation is not going to faze them, and they are just going to play their game."

Here's the way three key pitching decisions by both managers on Sunday night played into the Yanks' 4-1, Game 3 win.

Girardi pulls Pettitte for Joba
The situation:
Yanks left-hander Andy Pettitte has thrown only 81 pitches and records the first out of the seventh by whiffing the lefty-swinging Jason Kubel. Pettitte had allowed only one run on three hits, while walking one and striking out seven. He leaves leading, 2-1.


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The decision: Girardi replaced Pettitte with right-hander Joba Chamberlain.

The outcome: Delmon Young doubled to right-center. Brendan Harris grounded out to third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who bobbled the ball, but still threw out Harris at first as Young remained on second. Jose Morales whiffed to end the threat.

The analysis: "Andy is used to pitching in these situations, and he was great. He was as good as we have seen him all year long tonight. And Delmon Young has been someone who has had some success off Andy. I know Andy had handled him to that point, but my gut told me to go to Joba in that situation, and Delmon ended up with a hit. But Joba pitched out of the situation and got the last two outs." -- Girardi

Gardenhire pulls Pavano after seven
The situation:
Right-handed Twins starter Carl Pavano has thrown 95 pitches, while allowing five hits and two homers -- to A-Rod and Jorge Posada in the seventh inning. He had whiffed nine and walked none.


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The decision: Twins manager Ron Gardenhire replaced Pavano in the eighth with right-handed reliever Matt Guerrier.

The outcome: Guerrier retired the side in order without incident.

The analysis: "I thought he had done his job, and we saw him get a couple balls up. It's been a long year. Pavano's thrown a lot of innings -- over 200 innings for the guy. He had tendinitis and shots earlier in the year. He's gone through a lot. He did his job. He did what he had to do. He gave us a great opportunity to win the ballgame. He told us when he got here, 95 to 105 pitches was about his limit, and that's where we tried to keep it." -- Gardenhire

Mo to get four outs
The situation:
With a runner on first and one out in the Twins' eighth, Phil Hughes gets Orlando Cabrera to pop out to center for the second out.


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The decision: Girardi replaced Hughes with Mariano Rivera, asking the stellar right-handed closer to get the final four outs and wrap up a three-game sweep in the best-of-five series.

The outcome: Rivera induces Joe Mauer to ground out meekly to first, ending the eighth inning, recording his 35th save in postseason play and his first since 2005.

The analysis: "Mo is more experienced this time of year. I know Joe Mauer is a great hitter, but Mo is more experienced in that situation, and he has been doing it since 1996 when I saw him burst on the scene. I was behind home plate back then. Nothing against Phil, but I just thought it was time to go to Mo." -- Girardi

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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