Girardi, whose rigorous preparation has been a hallmark of his 10 years as the Yankees’ manager, had missed only three games before Friday — all very early in his tenure. He missed two games, on April 4-5, 2008, with a respiratory infection, and a little more than a month later, on May 23, he served a one-game suspension for kicking dirt on an umpire.
As in those games, the Yankees’ longtime bench coach, Rob Thomson, replaced Girardi as manager on Friday night. The two mapped out the lineup on Thursday night when the Yankees wrapped up a series in Kansas City and flew to Tampa, and they spoke by telephone on Friday. But Thomson said he would not be tempted to text Girardi during the game.
“He’s at his daughter’s graduation, and we have a responsibility to do a job for him,” Thomson said.
They also would have spared Girardi a degree of exasperation.
The Yankees surrendered a 2-1 lead in the seventh — two of the three runs that inning came when third baseman Ronald Torreyes misplayed a high chopper. They tied it in the eighth when Matt Holliday drove Ryne Stanek’s 100-mile-per-hour fastball over the right-field wall. But the Rays came back with Evan Longoria’s fourth hit of the night — a single to left off Tyler Clippard — that brought home the decisive run.
The Yankees also survived a scare when second baseman Starlin Castro and right fielder Aaron Judge collided chasing a foul pop fly.
“I got hit harder in football,” said Judge, who played the sport in high school.
Left fielder Brett Gardner, the longest-tenured Yankee, said it was unusual not to have Girardi camped over the dugout railing.
“This is my 10th year, and I’ve played in I don’t know how many games and he’s been there for every one,” Gardner said. “But I felt like we played the game the same way.”
The only noticeable difference may have been Thomson’s decision not to use Gary Sanchez as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning. Girardi rarely plays for tomorrow — he even used pitcher Bryan Mitchell at first base to try to win a game this season. But Thomson told Sanchez before the game that he was unlikely to play given that the Yankees were just beginning a stretch of 20 consecutive games without a day off.
Girardi’s absence had been planned for months, but was kept quiet until about two and a half hours before the game.
Professional athletes and coaches can often feel torn by decisions like Girardi’s. They weigh the obligations presented by their families and their jobs, but they can also be influenced by the large salaries they are paid and the public arena in which they perform.
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