Joe guts, Joe glory as Yanks claim first

BOSTON -- Manager of the Year candidate Joe Girardi wanted the Yankees' seven-game losing streak to the Red Sox to die Friday night. He wanted to take first place for himself and his team, hand the ball to CC Sabathia on Saturday and put some distance between his club and its biggest rival.

So Girardi made his gutsiest decision of the season.

With two outs in the fifth, he took out Bartolo Colon, who had allowed only two runs. As the Twitter mob roared in disapproval, Boone Logan trotted in to face maybe baseball's best hitter, Adrian Gonzalez, with the bases loaded and the two-run deficit potentially about to be ripped wide open.

"Gonzalez, he is a great hitter," Girardi said. "He has success off right-handers and left-handers, but he has more success off of right-handers. I thought Bartolo was getting a little bit tired, he had thrown a lot of pitches that inning. I didn't want him to make a mistake because of fatigue and I went to the fresh left-hander."

Colon had thrown 94 pitches and had turned exclusively to his fastball. Girardi watched and, with pitching coach Larry Rothschild, determined that this was the most important at-bat of the game. With Sabathia likely to provide extended innings Saturday, a rested bullpen and a day off on Monday, Girardi handed the ball to Logan.

Logan, who has been off-and-on all season, ran in from the bullpen, thinking -- lefty on lefty with the bases loaded -- the .353-hitting Gonzalez would be looking off-speed on the first pitch.

"So I went ahead and threw a first-pitch fastball," Logan said. "He definitely was looking off-speed, because he didn't swing at it."

Logan followed it up with two sliders and thought Gonzalez had "no chance."

"The swing he took on my first slider, I knew I had him if I just threw another one in the dirt and he chased it," Logan said.

Three pitches. Three strikes. One huge decision proved correct.

"That is a huge strikeout for Boone Logan and for us," Girardi said.

The Yankees' offense immediately scored three runs in the top of the sixth and Girardi -- who handles his bullpen very well -- let Logan and Cory Wade complete the bottom of the sixth before turning to the new formula, So-Ro-Mo.

The new seventh-inning guy, Rafael Soriano just blinded the Red Sox, going three up, three down, firing his first important fastball since May and lighting the gun up in the mid-90s, which made him feel like it was 2010.

"The way I pitched today reminded me of the way I pitched in Tampa, when I was a closer," Soriano said. "So I feel pretty good today."

With David Robertson and Mariano Rivera so good in the eighth and the ninth, Soriano may become the Yankees' July prize even though the Steinbrenners and team president Randy Levine delivered him in January.

"It is like a making a trade and really bolstering our bullpen," Girardi said.

Soriano -- who had made two meaningless appearances since coming off the DL -- said he is accepting of his role, which is a credit to Girardi. There is little doubt he sincerely cares about his players.

He may not always be popular with all of them all the time -- what boss is? -- but overall they must know he believes in them. Logan, whose job has seemingly been in jeopardy all year, has felt it.

"Joe's been awesome with me," Logan said. "He has had patience when I know a lot of other people haven't had as much patience, as far as fans and stuff. He has stuck with me and had confidence in me all year and I've shown him I can get out of big situations."

Logan did it on Friday, making Girardi look smart. When your team has a $200 million payroll, there aren't many chances to receive credit. The money will always be pointed to for the success.

The Yankees are surely not a rag-tag bunch. But Andy Pettitte retired, Cliff Lee said no, Alex Rodriguez is hurt, Derek Jeter looked old in the first half and Phil Hughes has been mostly a non-factor.

Girardi has managed all of this and his decisions have turned the Yankees into a first-place team. They are alone at the top after the AL Manager of the Year candidate made his gutsiest move of the year.