I hate it when negative Yankee history repeats itself but that's what happened today with Manager Joe Girardi's quick hook of Andy Pettitte. It was Bob Lemon in the 1981 World Series all over again.
In today's game, the Yankees were ahead 3-0 and Pettitte was working on a shutout. When the first two Oriole batters singled in the seventh, however, Girardi pulled him in favor of Shawn Kelley. Pettitte's pitch count was only 93. Kelley promptly gave up an RBI single to Matt Wieters and a three-run home run to J.J. Hardy to turn a 3-0 lead into a 4-3 deficit. Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain compounded the damage, with the big blow a three-run homer run off Chamberlain by Adam Jones, making it 7-3.
In Game 6 of the 1981 World Series, the same situation occurred: a veteran pitcher in control of the game was pulled too early. The game was tied 1-1 and the Dodgers led the series 3-2. Tommy John was cruising. With the Yankees at bat in the bottom of the fourth and two men on, Lemon pinch-hit for John, who was visibly upset at Lemon's decision. Bobby Murcer, the pinch-hitter, lofted a harmless fly and George Frazier, John's relief, gave up three runs in the next half-inning. That was the end of the game and the Series. (The hard-luck Frazier lost three games in that Series).
Girardi offered an unconvincing explanation for his move, "He was up in pitches, they had squared two balls up in a row, we thought it was time to make a change." Undoubtedly, the binder was behind Giradi's decision. Wieters, a switch-hitter, is batting .211/.269/.638 against righties and .265/.315/.822 against lefties. Apparently, that trumped the fact that Wieters was 0-2 (2 Ks) against Pettitte today and .200 (3/15 with 8 Ks) lifetime against him.
The 1981 game was more important because it was a World Series game and ended the Yankees' season. Today's game, while only a regular-season game, may have significant consequences, too, given the gaudy record the Yankees need to reach the post-season. In the position they find themselves in, they cannot afford to give away any wins.