NEW YORK -- The Yankees wound up losing to the Texas Rangers by three runs, 8-5, at Yankee Stadium, but it was only a one-run game when Joe Girardi made what seemed to be the decision of the night: Removing Ichiro Suzuki, currently his hottest hitter, from the lineup in the eighth inning and replacing him with Austin Romine, who is hitting .138.
Girardi had looked like a genius in the seventh, sending Vernon Wells up to hit for Chris Stewart. Wells singled and Ichiro followed with a home run for the second night in a row -- he won Tuesday's game with a ninth-inning walk-off -- forcing Girardi to find a spot for Romine, the only other catcher on his roster. He chose to pull Ichiro rather than Zoilo Almonte, who was coming up to bat second in the eighth inning.
Girardi's reason? "If you don't get a base hit, Ich is not gonna hit. So the hope is you're going to get a hit, but there's no guarantees and Ich's spot never came up."
In other words, the manager of the New York Yankees did not think his team would get another hit in the game, so what difference did it make?
It turned out Girardi was right -- the last six Yankees went down in order, leaving Romine on deck at the final out -- but there was also a residual effect. Almonte's inexperience and enthusiasm in left field might have contributed to Brett Gardner's ninth-inning error, when he seemed to hesitate slightly going after A.J. Pierzynski's line drive to the gap, which led to two more runs and put the game out of reach. Earlier, a Jayson Nix throwing error had led to an unearned run against Andy Pettitte.
In the clubhouse afterward, Ichiro, who has hit .364 on this homestand (12-for-33, seven RBIs) did his best to appear on board with the move.
"As a player, you just accept it," he said through his translator, Allan Turner. "Of course, there's a reason behind it, so all I can do is prepare for tomorrow and that's what I've started to do."
Asked if he could explain exactly what the reason was, Ichiro said, "I think we all understand the reason. Obviously, I understand the reason. I'm not going to ask him why, and I don't think he needs to explain it to me. We're all big leaguers here, and we understand the game. I understand the reason why. You are trying to make it difficult, but even if you throw some hard questions at me I'm still going to answer it in a way you probably don't want to hear."
• Pettitte, who lost for the fourth time in six starts and his third in a row for just the fifth time in his career, seemed puzzled over why what worked so well for him early in the season doesn't seem to be working now. "It hurts," he said. "I pride myself on making big pitches. Just right now, it's not happening for me. It'll turn, there's no doubt about it. I just want my body to continue to feel good. And if I keep throwing it where I am now, I know it's gonna turn around. I just have to stay positive and keep going out there. It ain't nothing I haven't been through before."
• Lyle Overbay's solo home run in the second inning gave the Yankees an early 1-0 lead. It was Overbay's first home run at Yankee Stadium since May 4.
• Wells, who appears to have lost the left-field job to young Almonte, might have found his niche as a pinch hitter. His seventh-inning single made him 3-for-7 (.429) as a pinch hitter this season.