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Joe says it's over ... before it's over

NEW YORK -- Don't tell Yogi.

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi thought Game 2 was over. His team had barely hit all game.

They were already down three runs heading into the ninth. Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde, 49-for-49 in save situations on the season, was waiting in the bullpen. So Girardi thought it was over before it was over.

He didn't put in Rafael Soriano or David Robertson to hold the damage in the ninth.

He opted for the Yankees' postseason version of the white flag -- Luis Ayala. Ayala gave up a run in the top of the ninth and made the incredible, just-missed comeback in the bottom half that much harder.

Girardi had decided that the battle for Game 2 was lost and so he wanted to save his bullets for Detroit.

"We still have two more games in a row," Girardi said after the Tigers knotted up the ALDS at one game apiece with their 5-3 win over the Yankees.

Girardi went on to explain that if the Yankees were down two runs instead of three heading into the ninth, he would have gone with Soriano or Robertson. Down three, with Valverde looming, he thought it was too daunting.

"Being down three runs and you know what Valverde has done all year long, we decided to go to Ayala," Girardi said.

During the regular season, Girardi masterfully managed each today with an eye for tomorrow. The playoffs, though, are a different animal. Girardi even said during the pregame on Sunday that in the postseason you can even use Mariano Rivera three days in a row.

Robertson and Soriano, younger than Rivera, haven't pitched since Tuesday. They almost needed the work.

In the bottom half of the ninth, the Yankees had the tying runs on base for Robinson Cano. He couldn't come through. Still, not going to Soriano or Robertson hurt the Yankees in that spot.

It didn't lose the game, but it didn't help.

Before the ninth, Girardi made two decisions that could be questioned, but are not necessarily questionable.

In the sixth, Derek Jeter threw awkwardly and errantly as he rushed to beat Austin Jackson's speed. Magglio Ordonez followed with a single. Yankees starter Freddy Garcia struck out Delmon Young. That set up the possibility of walking the fearsome Miguel Cabrera to load the bases. Cabrera already had a two-run homer and is playing at a level that should have him filed in Girardi's binder under, "This guy can't beat us."

So did Girardi think about walking Cabrera?

"You can," Girardi said of that option. "But the next guy has got to hit. If you look at the success Victor Martinez has had behind him with runners in scoring position and you start walking a lot of people, you can get in a lot of trouble."

Cabrera has toyed with Garcia in his career. Even before Cabrera's first-inning, two-out, two-run homer on a 2-0 slider, Cabrera's numbers were intimidating against Garcia. In 23 previous at-bats, he had nine hits (.391 average). Three of the knocks went over the wall. On a splitter, Cabrera nailed an RBI single.

"A normal player probably rolls over that pitch," catcher Russell Martin said.

At that point, it seemed like it could be the time to thank Garcia and turn to that rested bullpen. Martinez stood at the plate with a chance to extend the lead to four runs.

He followed with an RBI single.

In the seventh, Girardi pinch-hit for Brett Gardner with Eric Chavez looking for a three-run homer. It didn't work.

No, Girardi didn't lose the game, but he should have taken his own advice -- especially in the ninth. These games are different.

Another ex-Yankees catcher would surely have turned to Soriano or Robertson to give his club the best chance to come back, knowing it wasn't over until it was over.