I see a lot of tweets and blog comments wondering why David Aardsma was in the game in the eighth after the Mariners had tied it 2-2 in the top of the inning. I put that question to manager Don Wakamatsu after Aardsma gave up a two-run, game-winning homer to Alex Rodriguez in the eighth for the Yankees’ 4-2 victory.
“He hadn’t pitched in five days, and we had to get him in there,” Wakamatsu said. “We got him hot (warmed him up) and went with him in that situation because he needed to pitch. He left a pitch up, and this ballpark is a little more hitter-friendly, and that ball went out to right. It was a pitch he was trying to go up and out of the zone a little bit, and Alex got too much of it.”
When Aardsma had first begun to warm up, the Mariners were trailing 2-0. Teams don’t like to get a guy warmed up, sit him down, and then warm him up again, which is what Aardsma would have had to do if the M’s had held him back for a possible save situation in the ninth.
“It’s a situation where you get him hot, do you want to sit him down and get him hot again? ” Wakamatsu said. “We were pretty comfortable with him coming in and treating it like a save situation. We have to get him in there pitching. But again, that was where he wanted it (the pitch), and this ballpark allowed that ball to go out.”
In fact, catcher Josh Bard said, “Alex obviously is a very special player, but I would throw that same pitch to him 100 times. He thought he fouled it off. He looked straight up. I thought he had fouled it off too. Alex is an amazing player. He is going to break the all-time home run record, and you have to execute pitches against him. That was one of those times when we felt we executed. You try to live it with, but it’s frustrating.”
Aardsma agreed with Bard about the pitch selection (a 95-mph fastball that he said was supposed to be up and away).
“No question. I’ve made that pitch every time I’ve faced him. Every time I’ve faced him, I’ve attacked him like that. What am I going to do, change my game plan because he got one up in the air and it got out? I was throwing the ball well, I had a good angle on it, I was making good, solid pitches. If you saw the first swing, why would you change anything?”
Aardsma said he, too, thought it was a pop fly.
“Absolutely. There was no question. But I was wrong, obviously. You know what? There’s certain ballparks that’s an easy out, or some ballparks that’s an out. But you can’t change the ballparks. He hit it, and he got it. There’s no question, I’d attack him the same way. I wanted to face him again right after that: ‘Come on, bring him up again and give me another chance.’
I asked Aardsma about pitching in the eighth, rather than the ninth, and in a tie game.
“It’s all mentality, mindset,” he said. “Obviously, there’s a little bit more of that rush when you’re up by one, and you’ve got that order coming up. … You know what? You can’t let that affect you. You go out and make your pitches. I’m pretty sure Mariano (Rivera) isn’t going to change how he pitches, and I don’t want to change what I do.”