Joe Girardi Manages a Major Momentum Shift

Every move leaves Girardi smelling like a rose

By Josh Alper
|  Sunday, Nov 1, 2009  |  Updated 11:19 AM EDT
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Joe Girardi Manages a Major Momentum Shift

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Let's give credit where credit is due; Joe Girardi had himself quite a night on Saturday. We've poked fun at, screamed and shouted about his managerial style for much of the season and all of the playoffs, but the Yankees manager deserves nothing but praise for the way he handled Game 3 of the World Series.

He deserves credit for handling Nick Swisher's slump exactly the same way he would have handled it if occurred during a road trip to Kansas City and Detroit in July. He sat him down for a game, let him get his head straight and then got him right back on the horse. Swisher repaid the loyalty with a double and a home run as part of the general awakening of an offense that was mostly silent for the first two games and first three innings of Game 3.

He deserves credit for showing trust in Joba Chamberlain, Damaso Marte and Phil Hughes. Going to Chamberlain to start the seventh wasn't an easy call based on the way he's pitched this postseason, but Joba looked like he'd turned the clock back to 2007 by tearing through Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Chase Utley. He was powerful, composed and is almost certainly on top of the righty relief food chain once again.

Marte continued Ryan Howard's awful World Series -- NL pitchers are aware they aren't required by law to groove fastballs over the plate to Howard, right -- and then Girardi left him in the game to face the righthanded Jayson Werth. Marte blew him away as well and then got Raul Ibanez to complete a stellar, confidence-building inning that can pay dividends for the remainder of the Series. The best part of all of it was the way Girardi resisted mixing and matching his relievers and just stuck with guys who looked good. A welcome change that deservedly paid off for him.

Hughes didn't pitch well, but Girardi made the right move by turning to him to start the ninth. If he'd done as well as his bullpen mates, the Yankees would have gone a long way toward solving their bullpen woes in one fell swoop. He got beaten for a home run, though, and Girardi went to Mariano Rivera and the sure thing. Is there a big difference between trusting a guy to get three outs with a four-run lead but not trusting him to get two outs with a three-run lead? Probably not, but Hughes has given reason for fear and Girardi gave him a chance to win back the trust. He didn't and we'll pick up the discussion in February.

Girardi finally let his players play and, mostly, got rewarded for it. That's in stark contrast to Charlie Manuel who may have overthought things by choosing Joe Blanton to start Sunday night's Game 4, and didn't push one bullpen button right on Saturday night. Hard to throw too much anger at Manuel, however, when you realize that Utley, Howard and Ibanez were 0 for 12 with 7 strikeouts on Saturday night. Hmmm, reeling bullpen and scuffling offense, where have we heard that before? 

The Yankees can stick the knife in on Sunday night with their best pitcher (as opposed to their fifth starter) on the mound with a revitalized offense and relief corps backing him up. Those are all reasons why the momentum has shifted dramatically,  but don't cut Girardi out of the equation because you'd certainly be blaming him if things went the other way.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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