ARLINGTON, Texas - CC Sabathia was available in the bullpen, just as the big lefthander had promised one day earlier, but the Yankees' ace never was asked to even warm up during the Rangers' 6-1 victory in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series Friday night.
Instead, with the Yankees' season in the balance, the first reliever manager Joe Girardi turned to was David Robertson. And the Yankees' chances of extending their season at least one more day pretty much ended right there.
The Yankees were trailing 3-1 when Girardi decided to pull righthander Phil Hughes with two outs in the fifth. With Vladimir Guerrero on second after a tiebreaking two-run double, Robertson was brought in to face righthanded-hitting slugger Nelson Cruz.
Robertson threw five straight curveballs, with Cruz fouling off the last two to stay alive at 1-and-2. But then Robertson went with a fastball, and Cruz crushed the 91-mph pitch over the wall in centerfield for a two-run homer, extending the Rangers' lead to 5-1.
Girardi's bullpen decisions have been called into question throughout this series, including in Game 3, when he entered the ninth inning trailing the Rangers and Cliff Lee 2-0 and went with Boone Logan and Robertson instead of Mariano Rivera.
Despite already throwing 122 pitches, Lee would have gone back out for the bottom of the ninth, and the Yankees at least would have had a chance to increase his pitch count with the lefthander scheduled to start a Game 7. But by the time the Yankees batted, they trailed 8-0, thanks to the Rangers' six-run inning, and Texas no longer needed to use Lee.
Before Game 6, Girardi said he was prepared to use Sabathia in any situation, but he didn't even get him up although Hughes lacked command during the early innings.
Instead, Robertson was the first reliever to start warming up, first doing so when Hughes threw the first pitch of an intentional walk to Josh Hamilton to the backstop in the third inning for a wild pitch.
Robertson sat down after Hughes got out of the inning, but two innings later, he made it into the game. And as had been the case in Game 3, Girardi's decision didn't pan out.