To echo a point that Cliff made over the weekend, it’s amazing that in two consecutive series billed as "playoff previews," Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre played a major role in the outcome. Once, during a pitching crunch in Toledo, Casey Stengel was forced to use a possibly delusional kid who had wandered in off the street asking for an audition. He had no stuff and no reason to believe he could be a professional pitcher, but Stengel kept him around anyway, and on this day he successfully saved a game for the Mudhens. As Stengel walked off the field, the opposing manager asked, "Don’t you think, Casey, that you’re underestimating this league?" When Gaudin and Mitre are trying to win games against the Rangers and the Rays, the temptation is to ask Girardi the same question. "Don’t you think, Joe, that you’re underestimating this league?"
And yet, I don’t think this is entirely fair. Once CC Sabathia’s night was done, Girardi apparently could not call on Dave Robertson or Joba Chamberlain, and wanted to reserve Mariano Rivera for a save situation. Jon Albaladejo pitched on Saturday and Sunday, so it’s safe to assume that he was unavailable as well. That last is ludicrous, but after his mixed results after pitching in a tie against Texas I suppose Girardi is gun-shy. Fair enough. Yet, Girardi also mentioned during his pregame remarks that he was concerned with how much use Boone Logan has had lately. In effect, even with the expanded 40-man roster in use (as if you could forget it after Ron Washington made use of every pitcher in Rangers history over three games. I could have sworn Frank Tanana came in from the pen at once point), once Girardi had used Kerry Wood and did a quick shake ‘n’ bake with Logan, the pen was down to the trash-time guys.
Once the game went into extra innings, Girardi’s hands were tied. He shouldn’t be blamed for that. The real culprits are starting pitchers who, aside from Sabathia, haven’t given the manager much length, forcing work on the bullpen. Further, you can blame GM Brian Cashman, who was presumably aware of this evening’s pitching crunch and didn’t do anything to have an extra arm on hand. That’s not to say that Girardi would have used him ahead of the Tornado Twins, but at least there would have been an option. Was Mitre going to throw five innings? Was Javier Vazquez coming next for an "emergency" appearance? Better to risk the unknown than gamble on options that are likely to fail.
You can easily guess the reason why Cashman didn’t make a move. The 40-man roster is in an inflexible place when it comes to pitching. Of the pitchers who are both on the 40-man and not on the major-league team, only three are healthy: the just-signed lefty Steve Garrison, who comes to the Yankees from the Padres after posting an 8.87 ERA in five starts for Triple-A Portland, Andrew Brackman, who finished the season at Double-A and is presently pitching in the playoffs (he threw five scoreless innings at New Britain last week), and Hector Noesi, who has pitched just three games at Triple-A and was creamed in his most recent appearance. All three of these pitchers are starters and don’t have much bullpen experience.
In short, Cashman couldn’t get another reliever to the majors without pulling another player off of the 40-man. Even if he had, it’s not clear who he would have called up. Journeyman Royce Ring had a strong year, but he’s a spot reliever, not someone who should be asked to throw whole innings. Zack Segovia doesn’t inspire much confidence, nor does old John Van Benschoten. If you’re going to designate a player just to get a player up for one night, the pitcher coming might as well be someone you believe in. Alas, it was going to be Mitre or bust tonight regardless, and bust they did.
Meanwhile, the powerless streak continues. With tonight’s four-hit shutout, the Yankees are now hitting .218 with two home runs in 275 at-bats since the conclusion of the eight-game winning streak on September 4. In addition, dropping into second place, if it proves not to be temporary, sets up a first-round playoff matchup with Carl Pavano. As if we hadn’t had enough of that guy around here.