Joe Girardi knew he wasn't going to get more than three innings from emergency starter Hector Noesi in Game 1 of Wednesday's day-night doubleheader with the Rays.
So, even with a playoff spot and possible division title available if the Yankees won both games, Girardi went to the back end of his bullpen for major innings -- and it couldn't have worked out better.
"How many pitchers did we use?" Derek Jeter asked. "Ten? Fifteen?"
Actually, it was eight. Noesi went 2 2/3 in the 4-2 win and was followed by Raul Valdes, George Kontos, Aaron Laffey, Cory Wade, Boone Logan, Luis Ayala and Mariano Rivera.
The bullpen pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings. Ayala (2-2) got the win when the Yankees rallied in the eighth. Rivera pitched the ninth for his 44th save.
Girardi praised the group. When asked if anyone stood out as meriting further consideration for a possible postseason role, Girardi singled out Valdes, the former Mets lefthander who threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts.
"I thought Valdes did a pretty good job," Girardi said. "Both of the times we've used him, he's done a pretty good job for us. He's got a little funk to him . . . We'll use him more."
Laffey, who also could get a look as a second lefty in the playoffs, retired two of the four batters he faced.