PHILADELPHIA -- If Hideki Matsui was to do the improbable, this was the game to do it.
Facing the right-handed Joe Blanton, against whom Matsui has homered in his career, the Yankees could have elected to give their Japanese slugger his first outfield start of the season.
Instead, manager Joe Girardi opted to keep Matsui confined to the bench for Game 4 of the World Series in this National League stadium, a role that should not prevent him from helping the team. Rather than use Matsui in left field, the Yankees will hope that he can contribute as a pinch-hitter, as he did with a solo home run in the eighth inning of Game 3 against the Phillies.
"It was completely the manager's decision," Matsui said through an interpreter. "What I was told from Joe was to make sure I was prepared for the outfield, but as far as the decision is concerned, that was completely up to the manager."
Matsui, who has had surgeries on both knees in recent years and who had fluid drained from his left knee as recently as August, enjoyed one of his finest seasons in America with a .274 average and 28 homers. He has done even better in postseason play, hitting .571 with two solo homers in the second World Series of his career.
The Yankees, though, remain unwilling to risk playing Matsui in the outfield, where he has not appeared all season. During a run of nine straight Interleague games in National League parks in June, Matsui remained confined to the bench.
Despite the importance of these World Series games, and despite the relative health of Matsui's knees throughout the summer, the Yankees have not changed their plan in October.
"As far as playing the outfield, there are certain factors that are still unknown or untested," Matsui said. "I haven't been in the outfield obviously, and the weather and so forth. But as far as how I feel, the knees feel good right now."
With Matsui on the bench, Girardi's lineup remained identical to the one he used in Game 3 at Citizens Bank Park, other than the starting pitcher. Derek Jeter led off again, playing shortstop, followed by left fielder Johnny Damon, first baseman Mark Teixeira, third baseman Alex Rodriguez, catcher Jorge Posada, second baseman Robinson Cano, right fielder Nick Swisher, center fielder Melky Cabrera and starter CC Sabathia.
The presence of Swisher is telling. A day after returning to the lineup despite an October-long funk at the plate, Swisher homered and doubled in an 8-5 victory over the Phillies.
Swisher, who was benched in Game 2, spoke after Game 3 of a newfound confidence.
"You look at the guys that we have on our club, they've all gone through struggles at some point during the season and you don't give up on them," Girardi said. "It's just part of the game. If you had your swing every day, there would be a lot of guys hitting .500 every year, and that just doesn't happen. I haven't forgotten how hard it was, and the importance of showing faith in people, to me, is a big part of this job."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.