SEATTLE -- There’s nothing more a manager likes than the security of a set lineup.
It’s going to be a long while before Joe Girardi knows that feeling.
He cobbled together a lineup that pulled out a 5-2 victory over Seattle Wednesday, escaping the Northwest with two wins.
New York Yankees
And with third baseman Alex Rodriguez on the shelf for perhaps two months, there’s going to be plenty more of that to follow.
For someone like backup infielder Jayson Nix, this is opportunity knocking.
And Nix responded immediately Wednesday, coming off the bench with the bases loaded and New York down a run in the eighth inning to deliver a three-run double. The Yankees, trailing 2-1 at the time, took the lead and never looked back.
"That one felt good," Nix said. "We’d been struggling all day to get something going. And whenever I get my chance, I want to do something positive."
Girardi said there will be more chances in the coming days for all his role players, specifically Eric Chavez and Nix. Both can play third base, and the Yankees are going to need them to share time there. While Chavez is going to get most of the playing time, Nix figures to get more starts, too.
"Nix has done a really good job in the role that we’ve asked," Girardi said, explaining that the role will be expanding. "He’s a professional guy. He works hard. He’s been playing the four positions that we ask him to play, and he was prepared to hit before the game. I’m really happy for him."
It’s all about preparation for Nix.
He monitors the game, trying to guess what situations might arise and then puts himself in the middle of them. He manages in his mind alongside Girardi.
So it was that in the seventh inning Nix left the bench, went to the batting cage behind the Yankee clubhouse and took swings. He could see his number being called.
It came in the eighth after Derek Jeter became the fourth Yankee to be hit by a pitch in two days. Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira both walked, bringing up Raul Ibanez. Enter Nix.
"Mentally I try to think along with the game so that I’m never surprised," Nix said. "When my time comes, I’m ready to go."
He was this time. He was hoping to get the ball to the outfield for a game-tying sacrifice fly. But he put the ball in the gap in left-center, and suddenly the game was in motion for the Yankees in a way it hadn’t been all afternoon.
From here on out, Girardi is going to count on three players in particular in a way that he hadn’t considered before this week. Nix and Chavez are two; the other is right fielder and Wednesday’s leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki. Having acquired Ichiro on Monday, the Yankees are now in position to put Curtis Granderson in an RBI spot in the batting order like fifth with Jeter moving into Granderson’s vacated spot at second with Ichiro taking over for Jeter in the leadoff spot.
Will it work? The first real test will be this weekend in Yankee Stadium when New York hosts the Red Sox. The Yankees have a commanding lead in the American League East, but they are coming off a 2-5 road trip. If Nix had hit into a double play instead of hitting a double, the trip might have been 1-6. And that would have been unthinkable.
"After losing five games by a total of six runs on this trip, this was an important game," Girardi said. "The flight home will be better now. Going 2-5 is never what we want to do, but we won this series and we can feel good about that. Going into the off-day, this win was big for us."