Girardi's moves make strategy clear

Girardi's moves make strategy clear

PHILADELPHIA -- Manager Joe Girardi has made his statement and made it emphatically: At this point in the season, it's all hands on deck.

That became clear on Saturday afternoon when Girardi announced that CC Sabathia would get the ball in Game 4 on three days' rest. It was then further emphasized when, with two outs to go and a three-run lead in pocket, he signaled for his right-handed closer, Mariano Rivera.

Girardi is taking no chances. And that's largely the reason why his team is sitting pretty with a 2-1 series advantage and its ace poised to take the mound in Game 4.

"Well, I mean, this is the World Series," Girardi said on Saturday. "There is no baseball after the World Series for four or five months, so there will be plenty of time to rest."

Girardi managed his bullpen in Game 3 precisely under such a philosophy, particularly when it came to his decision to summon Rivera. The Yankees' skipper had already nixed the possibility of having Rivera available for his customary two-inning postseason save since Rivera had needed 39 pitches to nail down exactly that on Thursday.

But when the Phillies closed to within three of the lead with Carlos Ruiz's one-out solo homer in the ninth, Girardi didn't hesitate. It didn't matter that the Phillies would need two baserunners before the tying run would even step to the plate, or that Rivera had been taxed just two nights earlier, or that the pitcher on the mound (Phil Hughes) had limited the next batter (pinch-hitter Matt Stairs) to one single in eight career at-bats.

Nope. This is the World Series, folks. And that means you don't leave Rivera warming up in the bullpen while hoping for the best.

Mighty Mo
Lowest ERAs in World Series history
Rk Pitcher ER IP ERA
1. Harry Brecheen 3 32 2/3 0.83
2. Babe Ruth 3 31 0.87
3. Sherry Smith 3 30 1/3 0.89
4. Sandy Koufax 6 57 0.95
5. Monte Pearson 4 35 2/3 1.01
6. Christy Mathewson 12 101 2/3 1.06
7. Mariano Rivera 4 33 2/3 1.07
Minimum 30 innings pitched

"We thought we'd give Mo a chance to finish it out," Girardi said.

Rivera did, and needed only one hand to count the number of pitches to do so. Stairs' 0-2 groundout and a second-pitch popout by Jimmy Rollins got the job done. It wasn't a save situation, but it might as well have been, as Rivera saved the rest of his 'pen mates from having to do what he makes so automatic at this time of the year.

"I never think that [I might have a night] off, especially in the playoffs," Rivera said. "It's the playoffs. You have to do what you have to do."

"He really was the same as he was when he pitched two [innings]," added catcher Jorge Posada.

Rivera's efficiency in getting those last two outs could be critical. Though Girardi seems to have no hesitation to maximize the use of his closer, the fact that Rivera hardly labored on Saturday puts him in pretty good position to be available for a multi-inning save in Games 4 or 5, should his services be needed.

Coming up clutch
When tied 1-1 in the World Series, the Yankees are 12-5 in Game 3, winning the past eight since a loss to Brooklyn in 1952.
Year Opp. Gm 3 res. Series res.
2009 PHI W on road ????
2003 FLA W on road L in 6
1977 LA W on road W in 6
1964 STL W at home L in 7
1962 SF W at home W in 7
1961 CIN W on road W in 5
1960 PIT W at home L in 7
1957 MIL W on road L in 7
1952 BRO L at home W in 7
1951 NYG L on road W in 6
1949 BRO W on road W in 5
1943 STL W at home W in 5
1942 STL L at home L in 5
1941 BRO W on road W in 5
1936 NYG W at home W in 6
1926 STL L on road L in 7
1923 NYG L at home W in 6

Sure, in an ideal world, the Yankees get the win in Game 3 and Rivera never gets up off the bullpen bench. But we're working in reality, which often means that championships hinge on closers and that the Yankees ride Rivera.

"I'm feeling good," Rivera said, putting to rest any concern that his back-to-back outings could affect his availability on Sunday.

As imperative as Rivera's efficiency might have been in preserving his arm, what his 'pen mates did to bridge the gap from Andy Pettitte's so-so six-inning start to the closer's appearance proved to a horde of naysayers that maybe the Yankees' bullpen doesn't have to be all that much of a liability after all.

Remember how those middle relievers were, of course, the team's Achilles' heel? Well, that was before Joba Chamberlain sent down Philadelphia's top three hitters in order in the seventh.

"I didn't see the velocity, but the location was awesome," Posada said of the right-hander.

And that was before Damaso Marte struck out two while facing the minimum an inning later.

"I feel good," Marte said. "[Girardi's] giving me the chance to show how good I am, and I'm going to give it all on the field."

Yes, Hughes had a hiccup in the ninth when he allowed Ruiz to go deep. But the sequence was otherwise flawless.

"Those guys did tremendous, even Phil," Rivera said. "All those guys did tremendous."

The Yankees' offense is unquestionably legit, evidenced most recently by Saturday's three-homer effort. Their core starters have the pedigree to be downright dominant. And now with the bullpen having steadied for a night and Rivera continuing to show that he'll be every bit the anchor that he's always been in the postseason, New York's series advantage may actually be insurmountable.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.