"No disrespect to anybody hitting behind him, but it's just a chance we took."
That was Buck Showalter after the end of the Orioles' 3-2 win in Game Two of the ALDS in response to a question about bringing in lefty reliever Brian Matusz to intentionally walk the left-handed hitting Robinson Cano with a runner on in the seventh inning of a one-run game. You almost never see a manager make a pitching change in order to deliver an intentional walk and you don't see one put the go-ahead run on base willingly all that often either.
Despite what Showalter said, it was a sign of great disrespect for Nick Swisher. Making the move to Matusz guaranteed that Swisher would remain in the game, which is exactly what Showalter wanted at that moment in the game.
It's a position that Showalter need not explain beyond pointing out that Swisher had just one hit in 32 postseason at-bats (and that hit didn't even score a run) with runners in scoring position over the course of his career. Cano, on the other hand, has been as hot as anyone in baseball recently and kills pitchers who throw with either hand.
So Showalter made his choice and looked like a genius when Swisher flied out to end the inning and the last, best scoring chance of the night for the Yankees. It was more than just the 21st out of the game for the Yankee lineup, however.
It was a clear line in the sand drawn by Showalter. He told the Yankees that he is willing to let just about any member of their lineup beat them as long as it isn't the second baseman with No. 24 on his back.
That means Swisher and it means Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira as well. The assorted postseason failings of those three players since the Yankees won the 2009 World Series have been well documented and it seems that Showalter is willing to see if they maintain that low level of production through one more October.
There's not much the Yankees can do lineup-wise to combat Showalter's plans. Moving Cano from the fourth spot would ensure that he doesn't see any pitches in the series and there's no reason to move A-Rod from the third spot as long as Teixeira is running like a horse destined for the glue factory.
If Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki keep getting on base, Cano will get a chance to drive in runs like he did in the first inning on Monday, but that's going to be the only way to keep Cano as a dangerous part of this lineup unless the October-averse trio can start hitting. If they can't, it will be a very short playoff season in the Bronx.