CHICAGO -- Having seen his Yankees swept by the White Sox and their AL East reduced to just a handful of games, normally mild-mannered New York manager Joe Girardi boiled over Wednesday night. But it was a heckler -- and not his struggling club -- that lit his fuse.
As Girardi was about to begin his postgame news conference, the booming voice of an oversized, and possibly overserved, White Sox fan echoed through the concrete hallway beneath U.S. Cellular Field.
"Hey, Girardi, you bum! The Yankees suck!"
Maybe it was the fact the Yankees had just lost three in a row to Chicago, or maybe it was the heartbreaking nature of Wednesday night's 2-1 defeat, or maybe it was the fact the Yankees had not had a day off in 20 days. It probably was a combination of all of the above, plus the fact that the Yankees lead in the AL East, which peaked at 10 games in July, had dwindled to three.
Because suddenly, there was Girardi breaking out of the pack, leaving a YES Network camera crew shooting his back and a gang of reporters watching in bemused disbelief, and shouting at the top of his lungs at a total stranger on his way out of the ballpark.
"Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Shut up! I'm doing an interview!" he said.
Then Girardi turned to a stadium security guard. "Do something, would you? Shut this guy up."
"Yeah, kick me out!" the fan said, laughing as he headed out the door.
"Jesus, for crying out loud," Girardi muttered as he headed back into the media scrum.
That's the kind of night it was for the Yankees, whose hitters couldn't do a thing against Chris Sale (13 strikeouts), and who are watching the Rays gaining on them.
"That's baseball," Girardi said, trying his best to look and sound unconcerned. "It's what you go through. You know that the season's not over after 120 games. It's not over after 140. You have to play 162. We're going to play the teams we need to win against; that's the bottom line. We still have the lead."
Asked if he was worried, Girardi said, "I don't think I'm going to go jump off a bridge or anything like that."
Down the stretch, the Yankees have six games left with Tampa Bay and seven more with the Baltimore Orioles, who are five games back in third place.
"When you get down to Sept. 30 and you're down one with two to play, then you're like 'Oh my goodness,' " Mark Teixeira said. "You notice it because it's everywhere, but until that happens, it's not really anything to worry about."