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Chess Match: Reserves play big role

Chess Match: Reserves play big role

ANAHEIM -- Game 3 of the American League Championship Series was one of those heart-stopping postseason contests that had the two managers -- Joe Girardi for the Yankees and the Angels' Mike Scioscia -- making one key strategic move after another. On both sides, some worked and some didn't, though the Angels eventually won the 11-inning thriller, 5-4, on Monday.

Here is a look at the most compelling decisions of the day, and how they turned out.

Bypassing speed saves game for Angels

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The situation: Jeff Mathis pummeled a leadoff double in the bottom of the 10th. With a third catcher still on the bench in Bobby Wilson, Scioscia had the option of using a pinch-runner, such as the speedy Reggie Willits.


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The decision: Scioscia stuck with Mathis.

The outcome: Mathis did advance to third on a sacrifice bunt, thanks to a bad throw by Mariano Rivera. Mathis, however stayed on third when Torii Hunter hit a bullet to first on which Mark Teixeira made a terrific play on. A faster runner might have scored. There would be vindication for Scioscia in the 11th, as it was Mathis who won the game with a walk-off double.

Analysis: "You know, Jeff, for a catcher, he runs well," said Scioscia. "I think that we felt strong about it if we did get it done -- and we did end up getting it done -- we wanted his defensive presence back there to continue the game."

Girardi pulls Robertson

The situation: Yankees right-hander David Robertson -- the winning pitcher in Game 2 -- retired the first two batters in the bottom of the 11th. Red-hot Howard Kendrick was up next for the Angels.


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The decision: In a somewhat surprising move, Girardi went to another righty -- Alfredo Aceves.

The outcome: Aceves gave up a single to Kendrick and then the game-winning hit to Mathis.

Analysis: "As far as Robertson, we liked the matchup with Aceves better," Girardi said. "It didn't work."

Giving up the DH and Rivera

The situation: The Angels had the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 10th, and Rivera was pitching for the Yankees.


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The decision: In an imaginative move, Girardi pulled Johnny Damon out of left field and inserted Jerry Hairston, who has a stronger throwing arm. It was a sound move, but it came with one hitch. Hairston was already in the game as the designated hitter, meaning Rivera was due to hit third in the top of the 11th.

The outcome: The ball was not hit to Hairston. Instead, Rivera got two groundouts to end the inning. And with two outs and nobody on, Francisco Cervelli pinch-hit for Rivera and struck out. The biggest drawback of the maneuver was that Rivera was out of the game, and thus, couldn't come out for the bottom of the fateful 11th, making the move easy to second-guess.

Analysis: "You have to put yourself in a situation where if the ball is hit directly at the left fielder to maybe give yourself a better chance," said Damon. "So Jerry does have a better arm than I do. I can't disagree with that. Unfortunately, it didn't come to him and he did not make a play and unfortunately we lose my bat the next inning."

Intentionally walking go-ahead run

The situation: The game was locked in a 4-4 tie in the top of the ninth, with two outs and nobody on base and the dangerous Alex Rodriguez at the plate. The pitcher? Lefty closer Brian Fuentes, the same man who gave up the game-tying homer to A-Rod in the 11th inning of Game 2. The Angels could either walk A-Rod intentionally or go after him. Brett Gardner, who came on earlier in the game as a pinch-runner, was on deck for New York.


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The decision: Scioscia opted for the intentional walk, despite the move putting the go-ahead run on base, and Girardi sent Hairston up to hit for Gardner.

The outcome: Hairston struck out to end the inning.

Analysis: "Often? Never [happened before]," said Rodriguez, when asked if he is used to being walked intentionally with two outs and nobody on base.

Running on Pettitte

The situation: Down, 2-0, in the bottom of the fourth, the Angels were desperate for some offense. Hunter belted a leadoff single and Vladimir Guerrero worked the count to 3-1.


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The decision: Though Pettitte is the all-time leader with 97 pickoffs, Hunter broke for second on the 3-1 pitch.

The outcome: Pettitte masterfully fired to first, and Teixeira swiftly threw to second to nail Hunter easily. Guerrero went on to draw a walk, but the Angels came up empty for the inning against Pettitte.

The analysis: "You've got to go on the first move, and they gave me the steal sign," Hunter said. "It's a Catch-22. You look bad when you get caught. If you're safe, you look like a hero."

Staying with Pettitte

The situation: The Yankees were still in command, with a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth. With one on and one out, Guerrero was at the plate. It was an interesting dilemma for Girardi. Guerrero came into the game as a .391 hitter lifetime against Pettitte. Guerrero was 2-for-4 with a homer in his career against Joba Chamberlain, the right-hander who was warming up in the bullpen.


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The decision: Pettitte had thrown just 80 pitches up to that point, so Girardi stuck with the lefty.

The outcome: On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Guerrero belted a game-tying, two-run homer to left. It was Guerrero's first postseason home run since a grand slam against the Red Sox in Game 4 of the 2004 Division Series.

The analysis: "Missed location there," said Yankees catcher Jorge Posada. "It wasn't where it was supposed to be. He's one of the best hitters in the league. Vladdy is tough, he's dangerous and today he showed it."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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