|ESPN.com: MLB Playoffs 2012||[Print without images]|
DETROIT -- Entering Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to totally shake up his lineup by benching Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher against Tigers starter Justin Verlander.
The game ended with Swisher in the on-deck circle, as a potential pinch-hitter for Russell Martin. Rodriguez never left the dugout.
To start, Girardi inserted Brett Gardner in left field and at the leadoff spot. Eduardo Nunez began at shortstop for the first time in the playoffs. Eric Chavez was the team's starting third baseman.
The only move that really paid off for Girardi was with Nunez. He provided the Yankees' only run, a solo shot, off Verlander in the ninth, that made the final score 2-1 Tigers as the Yankees fell behind three games to none in the best-of-seven series.
In the fifth, Chavez made a fielding error that led to the Tigers' second run. Gardner went 0-for-4 but played fine defense.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team's decision rested solely on Rodriguez's recent ineffectiveness against right-handers.
Rodriguez was 0-for-18 with 12 strikeouts against right-handed pitching in the playoffs. Against Verlander this season, he was 4-for-6 with two home runs. In his career, Rodriguez is a .267 hitter in 30 at-bats against Verlander.
"I let him know before I posted the lineup that I was gonna go with Chavy," Girardi said. "These guys want to be in there and I understand that, and as I said, these are hard decisions but decisions I felt I needed to make."
It is the second time in the playoffs that Girardi has benched Rodriguez. The other was in the decisive Game 5 of the ALDS.
With hard-throwing righty Max Scherzer on the mound for the Tigers in Game 4, Rodriguez might not start again.
Chavez has struggled in the postseason, too. After going 0-for-3, he is now hitless in 14 at-bats. He entered a .360 hitter (9-for-25) against Verlander. But Chavez biggest impact came on defense when he couldn't handle Quintin Berry's grounder in the fifth that led to a Tigers' unearned run. Chavez thought he got the wrong read on the in-between hopper.
"It wasn't a tough ball," Chavez said. "I couldn't make a decision."
Swisher is 4-for-26 (.159) in these playoffs. For his career, he has batted .167 in 177 postseason at-bats. He has batted .180 with 23 strikeouts in 61 at-bats against Verlander.
"You want to be out there," Swisher said. "That's the manager's decision."
Swisher nearly got the chance to change his night. In the ninth, with the Yankees down a run and two men on, Raul Ibanez made the final out of the game. If Ibanez had gotten on, Swisher would have batted.
Prior to Tuesday, Gardner had batted only three times since April, missing most of the season with an elbow problem. In his career, he was 5-for-11 against Verlander. He owned a .571 on-base percentage against the Tigers' ace in 16 previous plate appearances.
"I'm hoping Gardy can ignite us a little bit," Girardi said before the game. "Put some tough at-bats early in the game on Verlander and try to get his pitch count up."
In place of the injured Derek Jeter, Girardi decided to go with Nunez over Jayson Nix, who is a more sure-handed defender, but is just 1-for-11 in his career against Verlander. Nunez batted ninth. To leadoff the ninth, he took Verlander deep for the Yankees' only run.