The game was in the bag. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, all the Yankees needed was one more out before handing the ball to Mariano in the ninth and polishing off a sweep of the Royals. Girardi had just taken Damaso Marte out of the game, and with right-handed hitter Billy Butler coming to the plate, Girardi called on Jose Veras.
"It seemed like the right call at the time," explained Girardi. "With a righty up there, we wanted to use a righty. Lefties normally only have success against lefties. That's why there are no lefty starters. Certainly not any good ones. I can't think of a single lefty ace in the Majors."
One pitch into the at-bat however, Girardi began to rethink his strategy. "Veras has a good fastball, but I wanted to throw Butler a curve," explained Girardi. "So I took Veras out and put Coke in to throw Butler a curve." One pitch later, Girardi had seen enough. He walked out to the mound, took the ball from Coke, and gave the signal for a righty.
"I was looking for more of a slider type pitch, so it was time for Albaladejo. But after Albie missed outside, I took him out to bring in Ramirez. You see, match-ups are really important in baseball, and it was time to throw a change up, so we went with Ramirez."
When Butler got on despite the brilliant match-up based strategy, Girardi got creative. "I called the Pirates from the dugout phone and reacquired Jeff Karstens and had him try to finish the inning. I realize it is a bit unorthodox to use your entire bullpen on one out, but the season is a sprint, not a marathon, and we desperately needed this one."
Asked what he would have done in the ninth or in extra innings, Girardi replied, "I can't worry about that. I have to manage based on the situation at hand. What's the best match-up, the best pitch, the most aesthetically pleasing pitcher relative to the hitter. These are all things you have to think about as a manager. I can't worry about what might happen later in the game."