Joe Girardi has been one of the leading proponents of the Kevin Long school of hitting, which involves taking pitches, working the count, striving to make at-bats as long as possible in an attempt to wear down the opposing pitcher. Far more often than not, it works for the Yankees, who love to keep a game close and then win it against the opposing bullpen, an approach that no doubt helped them to post a league-leading 48 come-from-behind victories in the regular season and three out of their four post-season wins.
But tonight, that might be precisely the wrong approach against Cliff Lee, a strike throwing machine whose career K/BB ratio in the post-season is a truly daunting 54/6. And Girardi intends to tell his players as much.
"Our guys need to be ready to hit the first pitch,'' he said in his pregame meeting with the beat writers tonight. "If it's not your pitch don’t swing at it. But just be ready to hit the first pitch. Don’t just (take pitches) because you’re trying to get a 7-pitch at-bat. Chances are you’re not gonna get one off of him.''
Girardi singled out Brett Gardner -- who saw more pitches than any hitter in baseball this season -- Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada as hitters in his lineup who could use a reminder to jump on Lee early. "I'm asking them to do something a little bit different,'' Girardi said. But I think you gotta be ready to hit from pitch one off of this guy. There are certain times those guys will do it. Just saying you might need to do it all the time.''
Interestingly enough, Gardner and Swisher's numbers off Lee are very good -- (.375, 3-for-8 and .320, 8-for-25 with 2HRs, respectively) -- although Posada's are not (.233, 7-for-30, 2 HRs). But the best evidence to support Girardi's theory? Derek Jeter, among the most aggressive of Yankee hitters, has a .417 career mark off Lee, with 15 hits in 36 at-bats.