Although the Yankees' playoff hopes are very thin, they're still alive and these games are still very important. There's no secret about that. Taking the words from Joe Girardi yesterday, "You'd have to have your head in the sand not to know (where the Yankees stand)." Because of this, the Yankee skipper is going the extra mile to try to secure wins, and that includes going to his closer, Mariano Rivera, a little earlier than when he normally would, compared to earlier in the year.
Up 4-3 in the eighth inning of last night's win, David Robertson came on to try to pick up the three outs and hand it off to Rivera for the ninth. He collected the first two outs, on just six pitches, no less, with ease. However, with Rivera warming in the 'pen, Rajai Davis singled to left to put the tying run on base for the Blue Jays. Following a stolen base by Davis, thus putting said tying run in scoring position, Girardi, despite the count being 1-0, pulled his future closer in favor of his future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera to put out the fire. Rivera ended up inducing a grounder off Brett Lawrie to second to end the threat before escaping a two-on-no-out jam in the ninth to earn his 44th save of the year.
This isn't the first time Girardi went to his closer earlier than normal. In fact, it's something he's been doing for a couple weeks now. It started on September 4 against the White Sox. Coming into the eighth with a 6-1 lead, the score was cut to 6-5 following a pair of singles off CC Sabathia and a grossly ineffective outing by David Robertson, which included three more singles. Girardi called on Mo to get the final out of the eighth, which he did, punching out Alejandro De Aza with runners on first and second to end the inning before picking up the final three outs in the ninth.
His next multi-inning save attempt came against the Red Sox on September 8. Girardi, playing with a severely depleted bullpen (like severely depleted. His only non-Mo reliever that was worth a darn that day was Shawn Kelley, who, by the way, was fresh off a triceps injury), looked to get six outs from Mo against the hottest offense in the league. He did record the first three outs in the eighth, but then allowed a lead off homer to Will Middlebrooks in the ninth to tie it. Thankfully, the Yanks won the game in extra innings and avoided further catastrophe.
Finally, on September 10, Rivera picked up a four-out save against the Orioles in Baltimore. Again, playing with a thin bullpen, Girardi had to use Kelley in the eighth with a three-run lead instead of Robertson, who was nursing a shoulder injury, against the O's. Kelley allowed a run to make it a two-score game. With the bases empty and Nate McLouth up, Girardi once again called on Mo. He sure wanted this game badly, and Rivera gave it to him, picking up those final four outs to secure the victory.
Although he's 43 years old, using Mo for four, or even six, outs isn't something Girardi has shied away from. After all, Mo will have the rest of his life to rest, so it's best to get everything out of him that they can. The team is in desperation mode, and has been, really, for these last few weeks. There are 10 games left, and the Yankees will, at worst, have to go 9-1 to make it. The skipper's thought process is, if the team is going down, he's going down with his best reliever on the mound in the biggest spots, even if that big spot is a littler earlier than normal.