New York Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi silenced the critics on Tuesday night with scary-good bullpen management in the AL Wild Card game. 

Will all the real Joe Girardi haters please stand up?

That, of course, is before you are called on a take a few seats for all the unwarranted criticism and vitriol you aimed in the direction of the New York Yankees‘ manager all season long.


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It culminated in perhaps his best individual game performance as manager, given all the circumstances emanating from what was an intense do-or-die Wild Card game against the Twins.

Heavy dogs and all, the Twins showed fight. The final score of 8-4 doesn’t do this one justice. Just another easy win for the Yankees, who are now 91-33 against the Twins (with 10 straight postseason wins) since 2002? Not quite. Minnesota made them earn this.

On the heels of all the masses collectively and prematurely crowning the Yankees before the game, trouble immediately found the home team in the first inning. The raucous crowd had been waiting for this moment since they watched a lifeless group get blanked by Dallas Keuchel two years ago, ending their 2015 season in disappointing fashion.

And that anxiety reached exorbitant levels when Luis Severino was pulled after collecting just one out in the first inning. It was a 3-0 deficit before fans could even complete the roll call, or it at least felt that way. And then the painful memories resurfaced, Keuchel and the Astros beat them 3-0, too.

Without hesitation, Girardi called down to the bullpen to get Chard Green ready. Two batters later, he’d make his postseason debut. His task was to stop the bleeding, restore order and give the Yankees a chance to overcome this deficit. The Twins had runners on second and third with just one away with three runs already in.

Green struck out the next two Twins.

It takes some onions to pull your starter after just one out of an inning, but with everything on the line tonight, Girardi knew this wasn’t the time to care about emotions. He desperately needed to win this game so he turned to a guy who collected 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings during the regular season and became one of the unsung heroes of a young an exciting baseball team.

Girardi pulling Sevy was a no-brainer, but not too many would have done so that quickly when his ace was coming off such a dominant season with the ability to work out of jams. Girardi yanked him and his only mistake was the failure to demand his 23-year old to pack up his things and go home, so the Yankees could be rid of all the negative energy he brought with him tonight.

After squeezing every bit of juice out of the arm of Green, Girardi relied on David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle for multiple innings. This calls for a generous care package and thank you card to be sent to the Chicago White Sox for agreeing to give the Yankees their goods.

Then, Aroldis Chapman closed the door in the 9th striking out the side, putting a bow on a herculean performance by a bullpen that gave NY 8.2 innings, 13 K’s and just one run. Sometimes you can’t explain baseball, Suzyn.

How about the decision to leave Chase Headley on the bench? He had been one of the Yankees’ most consistent hitters during the regular season outside of a horrific May. Headley finished with an even .300 average post all-star break but found himself riding the pine with Greg Bird getting the start at first base. What are you doing, Joe? Is this the same Bird who can’t stay healthy and hit just .190 all season?

Guess that decision worked out too.

How odd was it not see Dellin Betances warming up to come in this game? Instead, Girardi elected to stick with Kahnle who came on in relief of Robertson and stalled a Twins rally. Betances has been the 8th inning guy and when he’s on, he’s one of the best relievers on the planet.

The reality is that Girardi couldn’t trust someone who posted a 5.59 ERA with seven walks in 9.2 innings in the month of September — especially in what essentially was a Game 7. Betances stayed in the bullpen and Kahnle did his job. Another move that worked out for those keeping score at home.

Now, this isn’t to erroneously suggest he is devoid of deficiencies. Girardi has made his share of blunders that have cost the Yankees games this season. But if you’re going to engage in the tedious hobby of dissecting every manager’s move in every inning of every game, not too many all-time greats would be in the hall of fame. It’s just an unfair metric.

And on the night that the young-stud Severino succumbed to the magnitude of the postseason moment, such was not the case for the battle-tested Girardi, who many speculate was managing for his right to stay at the helm of the Yankees past this season.

CHECK OUT the New York Yankees Team Center: News, Stats, Standings

The theory is that a loss tonight would’ve spelled the end for him due to a recalibration of expectations throughout the season that saw the Bombers go from rebuilders to contenders. But if, in fact, the fate of Girardi rode on tonight’s result, he corralled two victories. Tonight’s win snapped a five-game postseason losing streak (the second longest in franchise history), setting up a date with the Indians. And now there’s a strong possibility Girardi could get an extension.

 NEXT: Judge Off To Historic Start To Playoff Career


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Ty Butler

Content provider, producer and on air talent at ESPN Radio in Syracuse (@ESPNSyracuse). Disc Jockey for @TKClassicRock. Play by play announcer. Live and breathe sports – for better or for worse. Aspirations are that of becoming the greatest.