The Joe Girardi Show: Season 5, Episode 4

Jacoby Ellsbury, Derek Jeter

Each off day for the Yankees feels like an eternity, but after the rain created an off day on Tuesday, I thought it would work in the team’s favor after a two-run lead became a blowout loss. Here we are again with another off day for the Yankees and the lingering feeling from Wednesday night isn’t going away and I’m not sure it’s going to.

Last Friday, I said:

I haven’t been this excited about the Yankees since the moment right before Nick Swisher misplayed a ball that became a Delmon Young doubled, which led to Derek Jeter breaking his ankle on the next play, just five pitches later.

As of now, I haven’t been this down on the Yankees since, well, what I said next last Friday:

But Swisher misplayed that ball, Jeter broke his ankle, I nearly broke down in tears in Section 230 at the Stadium and aimlessly wandered home.

After winning three of four against the Tigers, and playing well enough to have swept the series if Joe Girardi only knew Matt Daley wasn’t going to be a good idea, and then beating up on the Indians last Friday night, in my delusional Yankees mind, I thought that I prematurely wrote the column “Sign Me Up for the Second Wild Card” and thought they could make a real run at the Orioles and their then-five-game lead. But here I am, six days after beating the Indians and the Yankees haven’t won a game since. Back-to-back losses to the Indians at home followed by back-to-back blown-lead losses to the Orioles on the road and the Yankees have played themselves out of contention for the division and each night their chances at winning the second wild card fade a little more.

So yes, the last time I felt this bad about the Yankees was when Jeter got carried off the field and now the realization that Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS might have been the last time Jeter ever plays in the postseason and that the last Sunday in September in Boston might be the last time he ever plays baseball is a real possibility. The only way that Game 162 isn’t Jeter’s last game if the Yankees win at least 25 of their remaining 43 games, and even then that might not be enough.

On Wednesday night, Hal Steinbrenner tried to be his dad by saying his team “has to step it up and they know it,” in what was the emptiest of all empty gestures since everyone will be back and paid next season and everyone will keep their job even if the Yankees miss out on the postseason for the second consecutive year in a world where 33 percent of the league gets into the postseason. While Hal was busy meeting about who the next commissioner of baseball should be (and it should be anyone other than Tom Werner), his team was busy giving away another game to the first-place Orioles thanks to some more questionable decision making from Joe Girardi.

So once again, it was necessary to fill in for Michael Kay on my version of The Joe Girardi Show.

Why the sudden urgency to use Dellin Betances?
Someone must have told Girardi that last night was Game 119 of the season and there are now only 43 games left because I can’t think of another reason to explain his sudden urgency. The urgency that I have begged for and waited for all season came in the sixth inning when Girardi turned to Dellin Betances to get nine outs, something that he hasn’t done as a reliever and something that I’m happy he asked him to do. But why all of a sudden, Joe? Where was this urgency when you didn’t care about giving away games or playing with the mindset of losing battles to win the war even if you might not end up winning the war anyway? I’m ecstatic to know that you know not only what “urgency” means, but that you are now also aware of the date and how many games remain on the schedule.

Betances got the first seven of nine outs before giving up a solo home run to Jonathan Schoop. Schoop is hitting .217/.255/.349 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs this season in 97 games. But against the Yankees, Schoop is hitting .379/.400/.862 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in just 29 at-bats. So of course the newest Yankee killer, and Orioles’ No. 8 hitter, was the one who blew Betances’ impressive outing to that point with a game-tying home run.

Maybe Girardi didn’t expect Betances to get all nine outs, but I have a hard time believing that he was going to ask Betances to get eight outs and then with Betances cruising with two outs and no one on in the eighth, that he would then call on David Robertson. So if Betances retires Schoop, he faces Nick Hundley. But Betances gives up the home run and Joe Girardi calls on Shawn Kelley to get the final two outs of the eighth inning instead of Robertson. So it’s Kelley in a now tied game, a game the Yankees had to win to have any hope of fighting for the division and to keep them from losing further ground in the second wild-card race.

Why did Shawn Kelley relieve Dellin Betances?
Before Joe Girardi calls on Shawn Kelley to relieve Dellin Betances, here is what we know about the situation: Shawn Kelley isn’t good at pitching. And really that’s all you need to know about the reliever you’re bringing in instead of the best reliever in your bullpen.

Kelley got Hundley to ground out before giving up a single to Markakis and walking Chris Davis. (Now would be a good time to bring in your best reliever, right? Wrong.) First-pitch slider to Adam Jones … ballgame over.

Kelley followed his horrendous outing by talking to the media and saying, “I think we’re looking more at the second wild-card spot. That’s a little bit better number, it’s a little more achievable at this point.”

There’s nothing quite like single-handedly destroying a game and then saying that the team is no longer playing for the division after losing to the team in the division you’re trying to catch because of your own performance.

Is David Robertson ever going to pitch again?
Today is Aug. 14. David Robertson last threw a pitch on Aug. 7 against the Tigers. He has pitched in four games in August and has thrown 57 pitches in 14 days, or 4.07 pitches per day for August. The Yankees have pitched 109 innings in August and Robertson has pitched four of those, or 3.7 percent of the Yankees’ pitched innings. Adam Warren, Chase Whitley, Shawn Kelley, David Huff and Esmil Rogers have all thrown as many or more innings than Robertson in August. But why would you want to use your best reliever more than once a week while fighting for your playoff life?

I guess Joe Girardi’s plan is to save Robertson’s arm for 2015 when he could be on a different team since he is a free agent at the end of the year, the way he saved Mariano Rivera’s arm so he could play catch with his kids for the rest of his life, or the way he is saving Derek Jeter, so he has enough energy to play on the beach and make love to Hannah Davis for the rest of his life. So while Shawn Kelley was busy destroying the Yankees’ chances at splitting two games in Baltimore, David Robertson was sitting in the bullpen, unused for the fifth game in a row.

This shouldn’t really be a surprise though when you look at the history of Girardi and the rest he has given Robertson. In 2011, David Robertson pitched 13 1/3 innings in September, appearing in only 13 of the Yankees’ 28 games. He threw 11 pitches in Game 161 on Sept. 27 to get some work and also be completely rested for the playoffs. But once the playoffs started, he continued to go unused, pitching just two innings in the five-game series loss to the Tigers. His first appearance in the series didn’t come until Game 3 on Oct. 3 (so he had five full days off). But guess who pitched in Games 1 and 2? Luis Ayala! And even Cory Wade got to pitch in Game 2 before Robertson. So Joe Girardi used Luis Ayala and Cory Wade before his rested, dominant, All-Star setup man in the playoffs. Why? Because playoff innings don’t matter the same way games in August apparently don’t matter. And with this bullpen management, games in September won’t matter either.