DETROIT -- In one unflattering category, struggling Yankees star Alex Rodriguez is perfect.
He improved to 2-for-2 last night, when manager Joe Girardi benched him in favor of Eric Chavez in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, the second time this postseason that Rodriguez was relegated to an observer in a must-win game for the Yankees.
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With the Yankees trying to avoid falling into a 0-3 hole in this seven-game series, and with the defending Most Valuable Player Justin Verlander on the mound for the Tigers, Girardi turned Rodriguez into a $29-million paperweight, just as he did in the deciding Game 5 of the AL Division Series.
"Right now, we're faced with making decisions based on what we see," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, before Verlander sent the Yankees to a stinging 2-1 loss. "And the opponents we're facing can dictate that a little bit."
The benching was just the latest in a round of humiliations for Rodriguez. Twice in the ALDS, and in the opening game of the ALCS, he was pulled for a pinch-hitter. He handled the situations gracefully.
But the New York Post reported yesterday morning that the struggling slugger spent Game 1 of the ALCS hitting on two women in the stands.
According to the report, as the Yankees were authoring a gut-wrenching defeat, Rodriguez was busy trying to score a phone number.
"Don't believe any of that ----," Rodriguez told ESPNNewYork.com, though he waved off several interview requests during pregame batting practice.
Both Girardi and Cashman declined comment on the report, insisting that Rodriguez's latest benching was unrelated.
Said Cashman: "This is pure baseball-related."
Rodriguez didn't address reporters after the game, during which he did not appear. In the ninth, even with lefthander Raul Ibanez facing lefty Phil Coke with two on and two outs, Girardi elected to stick with Ibanez. It was a matchup he preferred to summoning Rodriguez, which would have likely prompted Tigers manager Jim Leyland to bring in a righty, Joaquin Benoit.
"Well, they were going to bring in Benoit," Girardi said. "Ibanez has been one of our best hitters down the stretch here."
Rodriguez has already done plenty on his own to make himself unplayable. In six postseason games, he's hitting .130 (3-for-23) with 12 strikeouts. He has been particularly awful against right-handed pitchers, who have routinely blown fastballs by the helpless Rodriguez.
"I'm shocked to be honest," Cashman said. "It's something you really don't see. I see the same thing you do."
Rodriguez's benching was just part of a shake-up by Girardi in hopes of reviving his lifeless offense. Rightfielder Nick Swisher and shortstop Jayson Nix also were benched in favor of Brett Gardner and Eduardo Nunez. But neither of those players is owed $114 million over the next five years.
"Of course, that's something that you have to worry about," Girardi said. "But I don't think you can really worry about it today. Like I've said, relationships go through their ups and downs, no matter who you are. And you have a chance to rebuild them."
Girardi called Rodriguez with the news hours before Game 3. It's a call he might make again today before Game 4.
Said Girardi: "I look at each day independently."