TORONTO -- The New York Yankees suffered a crusher of a loss Friday night at the Rogers Centre, a 3-0 game that rapidly turned into a 7-0 rout and eventually a 9-0 defeat when manager Joe Girardi chose to stay with his second-echelon relievers, Blake Parker, James Pazos and Ben Heller, rather than his A-team of Adam Warren, Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances.
It was a clear case of manager who often espouses a "win today, worry about tomorrow, tomorrow" philosophy suddenly shifting gears and managing for tomorrow.
That is why it was not completely surprising to see that for Saturday's game against the Blue Jays, the Yankees' lineup was top-heavy with young players -- Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, Donovan Solano and Ronald Torreyes -- while veterans such as Mark Teixeira and Chase Headley rode the bench. Those players in Saturday's lineup are clearly the Yankees' tomorrow, and with the team's elimination number for an AL wild-card berth down to 6, it seems to be as good a time as any for Girardi to use his club's final nine games to see exactly what he's got to look forward to.
But it's not exactly as it appeared: Packing the lineup with youngsters turns out not to have been the plan, but more like the necessity. Neither Headley nor Teixeira, it turns out, was fit to play Saturday.
“I just don’t feel that he’s 100 percent in watching his at-bats and watching him move around," Girardi said of Headley, who has been troubled by a sore lower back. "I just felt like, I’m going to give him today and see how he is tomorrow. He did not complain to me, but just from watching him, I don’t see the same explosiveness from him in either spot. So I figured I’m going to give him the day.”
As for Teixeira, Girardi said the soon-to-be 36-year-old first baseman was suffering again from the neck problems that have kept him out of the lineup recently. “His neck was bothering him yesterday," Girardi said. "I will check with him again later on as we get through the day and get through treatment.”
Those injuries forced Girardi to move Torreyes to third base in place of Headley and start Austin, who has been in a 1-for-16 slump, at first base a day after an error by fill-in first baseman Billy Butler cost the Yankees two unearned runs in the first inning. The Yankees never recovered from that deficit as their offense managed just three hits, two of them by Sanchez, and never got a runner into scoring position after the third inning.
"We haven’t been able to score the past two days," Girardi said, "and it’s hard to win if you don’t score.”
Still, the manager was adamant that he has not given up on playoff hopes for his team, which sits four games back of the second AL wild-card spot and behind four other teams. The Blue Jays currently hold the first AL wild card berth and the Yankees came here with hopes of a sweep that would vault them back into the playoff hunt.
“I’m in the thought process, you have to win today," said Girardi, who stormed out of Friday's postgame news conference when asked if he thought a 3-0 game -- the score by which the Blue Jays led by after 6½ innings -- was no longer close enough for his offense to win.
"It’s a sign of some of the questions I was asked,” Girardi said in explaining his abrupt departure. "There are some things I don’t like, and if I don’t like it, I’m not going to deal with it, bottom line. To insinuate that I’ve quit is ridiculous. I never quit.”
Informed that some of his players seemed to take a more "realistic" tone following Friday's loss, Girardi said, "I think the feeling in a clubhouse sometimes changes when you lose as opposed to winning. It’s just a different feel, and some of the losses that we’ve had [have been frustrating]. But you still fight. That’s what you do, and that’s what this group has done, and that’s what we’ll continue to do. They’ll be willing to go today, I guarantee it.”