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Joe Girardi is not John McGraw

Joe Girardi: A series of head-scratching moves. (AP)

...Or Billy Martin for that matter. If you were following my Twitter feed last night,you already know that I am spectacularly frustrated with the way Mr. Girardi handled the Yankees in the Rays series that was just extinguished like a guttering flame. In the first game, he elected (or was forced by a short roster) to use his two worst relievers in an extra-inning game. In the second game, he was slow to hook Ivan Nova after this sequence to start the inning, Yankees leading 6-0:

  1. Home Run hit six miles.
  2. Double.
  3. Strikeout
  4. RBI single.
  5. 1-3 Groundout, runner on first goes to second.
  6. Walk
  7. Two-run single, runners on first and second.

He gave Nova one more batter, which resulted in one more RBI single to make the game 6-4, after which Boone Logan allowed a three-run homer to Willy Aybar. The Yankees ultimately won the game, but it required some clutch fielding from Greg Golson. Golson, parenthetically, will never hit, but with plays like that he will earn himself many trials as a fifth outfielder.

In the third game, the one that went off last night, the Yankees were up 3-2 going to the bottom of the seventh. I want to emphasize that this is a first guess: whatever Hughes' pitch-count, however well he had done to that point, he had no business being on the mound in the seventh trying to protect a one-run lead. He has become far too prone to the home run for that. In the second half, he's allowed a home run once every 20 at-bats, which is to say that given 600 at-bats against him, opponents would hit 30 home runs. In his last start, against the Blue Jays on September 5, he allowed bombs to John Buck, Aaron Hill, and Vernon Wells--three blasts in six innings. He had already allowed one home run to a guy who was due up fourth in the inning, so if anyone reached, Hughes would have to face Dan Johnson again. Not that Johnson is Lou Gehrig, but this is a guy who has hit 20-30 home runs in the minors every year going back to 2002, and he had already hit one in the game.

That didn't matter to Girardi, who didn't even have a pitcher up in the pen to start the inning. This is like Chuck Dressen letting Ralph Branca pitch to Bobby Thomson. Maybe the Yankees are content to back into the playoffs, not worrying about the division title, who they will face in the first round, home field advantage, and so on. Girardi usually isn't asleep at the wheel with pitching changes, so that seems as likely an explanation as anything. If not, the manager had an off series. Neither explanation is very satisfying.

With three one-run games, this was an exciting series, but if you're a Yankees fan, this had to be a frustrating series as well--not because the Yankees lost two of three, because the Rays are a good team and sometimes you lose to good teams. No, it was frustrating because the Yankees had a chance to win all three games but their approach was so passive as to give two of them away.