The phone calls to sports talk radio clamoring for Alex Rodriguez to be removed as the team’s third-place hitter began early Monday afternoon. They only picked up in intensity yesterday, hours after he struck out twice in the late innings of Game 2.
If manager Joe Girardi plans on following the advice of his team’s rabid fans he did not openly express it., but he did sound more open to the possibility.
“I think that we’re going to do whatever it takes to win this three-game series,” Girardi said on a conference call yesterday, about Rodriguez. “Nothing that we do will be something that is just a knee-jerk reaction. You know, we talk about different things, and whether it’s a pitching change or pitching situations. We know, the great thing about this is, I have a great group of guys that’s very unselfish — and they really want to win. And that’s what we’re going to do, what we think is best to win.”
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That may be the news Yankee fans are hoping to hear after watching Rodriguez strike out five times and go 1-for-9 in the series, but it is not a lock. Making a lineup switch involves other things besides writing the names on the lineup card. Rodriguez is batting 10-for-59 (.169) in the playoffs since his epic, six-homer 2009 postseason.
“I think you have to take it all into account,” Girardi said. “Sometimes it’s just not as easy as just writing a name or taking a guy out, a pitcher out. You have to think about the emotional part. You always have to think about that as a manager.”
Up until this series, Rodriguez batted fourth in every Yankee postseason game since Game 4 of the 2006 ALDS against Detroit when he famously batted eighth.
Kuroda likes home cooking
To hear Hiroki Kuroda talk about his good numbers at Yankee Stadium, the reasons for his success all come down to good luck and fan support.
“I think it’s just a matter of luck that I have great numbers here at Yankee Stadium,” Kuroda said on a conference call yesterday through an interpreter. “But I think one of the biggest things is the fans. They really motivate me during the game.”
Kuroda will make his third career postseason start and first as a Yankee tonight in Game 3. Kuroda made 19 starts at Yankee Stadium and was 11-6 with a 2.72 ERA.
Kuroda made four starts at home during the stretch run and was 2-2 with a 4.66 ERA, including a 6-1 loss to Baltimore on Aug 31. He gave up home runs to Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy that night. Overall he was 1-1 in two starts against the Orioles as he allowed 12 hits in 15 1/3 innings.
Kuroda last pitched Wednesday and allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings against the Red Sox. That start gave him a career-high 219 innings, surpassing his previous total of 212 with Hiroshima in 2006.
He will have six days rest, which is one more day than he had for his start in the division series for Los Angeles in 2008. Despite some spotty numbers in limited use with more than five days rest, Girardi feels that the extra rest will benefit the 37-year-old.
Kuroda made 15 starts with five days rest this season and was 6-5 with 2.60 ERA. In three starts with more than five days rest, he was 0-2 with a 6.27 ERA.
“We’ve seen he’s been pretty good on extra rest,” Girardi said. “We feel with the innings that he’s logged, this will be beneficial for him.
“I think we saw him throw a pretty big game his last start. Pitchers are used to going through bumps in the road. The way you have a good season is you don’t let it become a bump and another bump and he’s really good at that.
In the Dodgers’ three-game sweep of the Cubs in 2008 NLDS, Kuroda allowed six hits in 6 1/3 scoreless innings. Two of those hits were to the final batters of his appearance and coincidentally he was relieved by Cory Wade, who was left off the Yankee postseason roster.
“It doesn’t really matter in which spot I pitch,” Kuroda said. “It’s not my decision. I’m just going to pitch my best game wherever they put me.”
Rough commute for Yankees
The three-hour Amtrak trip from Baltimore to New York is usually pretty reliable, but it was not for the Yankees following Game 2.
The Yankees boarded their chartered train at 2 a.m. but electrical issues forced the team to end the trip in Aberdeen, which is 35 miles northeast of Baltimore. The Yankees, though, lucked out because the team bus was on the way to Atlantic City and was able to pick the team up.
The Yankees boarded the bus at about 3:15 a.m. and did not return to New York until 6 a.m.
“I think our guys made the best of it, and kind of laughed at it,” Girardi said. “You know, there were some electrical issues, and we ended up getting on a bus. It’s interesting where we stopped, in Aberdeen, which I’m not sure what level that is for the Orioles, but I think it’s a minor-league affiliate. So that was kind of interesting.
“But I thought our guys made the best of it, and they laughed, and there were some pictures taken. It's just something you have to deal with, similar to getting in from the West Coast some days is what it was like.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher for coverage throughout the postseason.