Secondly, there isn’t really any reason to think that the additional work will affect Sabathia in three days time. While the idea that fewer pitches thrown makes it easier to pitch on short rest, there isn’t any concrete evidence for the effect, and plenty of former starting pitchers will attest that it’s easier to pitch later in the game than earlier (up to a certain point, anyway). Remember that getting the arm loose and warmed up is stress in itself, as is throwing, say 60-75 pitches. In any case, it’s not like Sabathia was rally pushed physically in the game: he only threw 103 pitches over the eight innings he worked, and thanks to the nine run cushion the offense provided, he never faced a stressful situation that required him to really bear down and get out of a jam or anything like that.
Most of all, the fact that Sabathia soaked up those extra innings and the Yankees only needed to get one inning of work out of Freddy Garcia means that Girardi will have a full complement of relievers to call on today and tomorrow. That’s a pretty big net benefit for him both because David Phelps is making his first start in a few weeks tonight, and because the Yankees control their own destiny. Seriously, I can’t repeat that enough. Right now the Yankees ought to be primarily focused on winning both of the next two games and securing both the A.L. East and the right to play the winner of the wildcard game in the ALDS. Having everyone in the bullpen available to be deployed as needed will go a long way towards doing that.
In short, there’s really no reason whatsoever to second guess Girardi for the way he handled his ace. On the one hand, saving his bullpen increases the Yankees’ chances of winning tonight and tomorrow, which would allow them to avoid the wildcard game altogether. On the other hand, there’s no reason to assume that throwing 103 pitches will affect Sabathia’s ability to start on Friday if need be in the first place.
And if you’re keeping score at home: it’s officially October and a) the Orioles and A’s have clinched playoff berths and still ave a chance to win their respective divisions, and b) I’m defending Joe Girardi’s managing in a meaningful game. Maybe it’s time to start buying into that Mayan stuff after all…