Chess Match: Relief moves pay off
Jeter eschews sacrifice bunt with lefty on the mound
NEW YORK -- As in just about any five-hour and 10-minute game that takes 13 innings to finish, there are bound to be countless strategy decisions for the managers and players.
This was clearly true in Saturday's memorable Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, in which the Yankees beat the Angels, 4-3, to take a 2-0 lead in the series.
Here is a look at some of the more interesting decisions from Game 2 in the Bronx, and how they unfolded.
The captain swings away
The situation: With runners at first and second and no outs in a 2-2 game, Derek Jeter stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fifth. In his previous at-bat, Jeter had belted a home run, his 19th in postseason play.
The decision: Should Jeter move the runners over or swing away? Manager Joe Girardi never gave the bunt sign. Jeter, who often bunts on his own in those situations, opted to swing away.
The outcome: New York's captain hit into a 1-6-3 double play, though television replays indicated Jeter was actually safe at first base. Still, if Jeter had executed a bunt, it would have prevented almost any chance of a double play and possibly led to a big inning for the Yankees.
The analysis: "I didn't think about bunting there, not with the lefty pitching. If it's a righty, maybe it's a different story," said Jeter, referring to Angels starter Joe Saunders.
Got to go to Mo?
The situation: Phil Hughes had worked around a hit and an error by Jeter and had runners on first and second and two outs in the top of the eighth, the game tied at 2.
The decision: Instead of letting Hughes go after No. 9 hitter Erick Aybar, Girardi called on closer Mariano Rivera.
The outcome: Rivera once again proved why he is perhaps the best postseason closer of all-time, getting Aybar on a weak groundout to second. He wound up firing 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Going to Mo so early was, however, a calculated gamble by Girardi, who didn't have any of his top relievers left once the game got to the 11th inning.
Analysis: "I knew I had [Chad] Gaudin for 75 pitches. You're thinking that's four or five innings. In your mind you can't necessarily say, 'I think this game is going to go 19 innings,'" Girardi said. "I'm going to worry about it. ... We tried to win in nine innings and then the 10th and then the 11th. So I wasn't worried about our pitching, because I knew we had Gaudin."
Sticking with Jepsen; holding back Fuentes
The situation: With runners at the corners and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Angels had rookie right-hander Kevin Jepsen on the mound and the Yankees had Robinson Cano at the plate. Angels manager Mike Scioscia had two left-handers in the bullpen -- Darren Oliver and Brian Fuentes.
The decision: Scioscia stuck with Jepsen, despite lefties hitting .373 against him this season.
The outcome: Jepsen got the job done, inducing Cano into a tapper to the catcher. This allowed Scioscia to still have Oliver and Fuentes for the innings that would follow, though the latter wound up surrendering a game-tying homer to Alex Rodriguez in the 11th.
The analysis: "It was a tight ballgame. I wasn't even thinking about lefty/righty," Jepsen said. "It was more just, whoever's coming to the plate, I'm going to get them out."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.