ARLINGTON -- Having Matt Holliday back from his month-long absence has undeniably boosted the Yankees' lineup over the past week.
Since returning Sept. 2, he had slashed .278/.409/.611 entering Sunday's game, but it's been tough for manager Joe Girardi to find a spot for Holliday in the lineup every day while balancing the playing time with Chase Headley and Greg Bird. Leaving Holliday out, though, means he's available off the bench in late-game situations.
Saturday's win was a prime example. Girardi inserted Holliday as a pinch-hitter for Bird in the eighth after Todd Frazier was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Girardi noted that a younger, more inexperienced player whose adrenaline might be pumping could've swung for the fences in the hopes of flipping the game with one hit.
Instead, Holliday laced a single to right field, setting up a sacrifice fly that tied the game.
"It's a nice weapon to have, obviously, because you know you're going to get a professional at-bat where someone's not going to be overwhelmed by the situation," Girardi said. "He's going to have a plan and is just going to go out there and execute.
"It would've been really easy in that inning to think 'two-run homer' instead of having a plan, hit the ball, know what the pitcher's going to do with you, not try to do too much. And that's what he did."
Having Holliday come off the bench works in the long-term as well. It keeps his legs fresh for when the Yankees will need him most as they barrel down the final few weeks and try to overtake the Red Sox in the American League East.
But if that doesn't happen, they'll likely play in the AL Wild Card Game, and a veteran bat like Holliday's is invaluable in late-inning clutch situations.
Girardi said the club expects rookie outfielder Clint Frazier to return "sometime this week." Frazier has been on the disabled list since Aug. 9 with a strained left oblique and has been rehabbing with Double-A Trenton, which advanced to the Eastern League Championship Series.
The Yankees open a three-game set with the Rays at Citi Field on Monday, and Major League Baseball is requesting fans who choose to attend the series to utilize mass transit. Because of The Meadows Music & Arts Festival, parking availability will be extremely limited.
Sam Butler is a reporter for MLB.com based in Arlington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.