DETROIT -- Before the Yankees boarded a charter flight for Detroit on Monday, Brett Gardner was digging into the batter's box at Yankee Stadium, working at-bats against Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia.
Taking hacks against two right-handers left off the postseason roster hardly seemed like fair preparation for facing Tigers ace Justin Verlander on Tuesday night, but given the Yankees' circumstances, they were willing to take their chances.
"Freddy maybe is not necessarily going to get you ready to face Verlander, but Nova has got a good arm," Gardner said after the Yankees' 2-1 loss to the Tigers in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. "If there's one guy you could pick to get ready for Verlander off our team, I'd say Nova would probably be the guy."
The move, bold as it may have been on manager Joe Girardi's part, didn't pay off in the Yankees' favor. Gardner went hitless in Verlander's dominant 8 1/3-innings effort, jumping at four changeups for three groundouts and a popout.
"I didn't see his changeup too well," Gardner said. "He did a good job of pounding the zone and getting ahead, for the most part. He threw me some changeups in counts where I didn't expect a changeup. You've got to be geared up to hit 98 [mph], and when he throws you an 86-mph changeup, you're going to be in front of it."
Limited to just four at-bats in game action since April 17 due to a right elbow strain and subsequent July arthroscopic surgery, Gardner has had some regular-season success against Verlander, owning a 3-for-8 (.375) lifetime track record.
"Obviously, we think Gardy is one of the best leadoff guys in the game when he's healthy and has had a chance to play," general manager Brian Cashman said before the game. "He's healthy now. He's going to get a chance to play. With all due respect, he can't really give us any less than what we've gotten. So why not? We'll try it."
Girardi would not tip his hand if he planned to start Gardner again on Wednesday in Game 4, with the Yankees facing elimination and up against right-hander Max Scherzer. Nick Swisher, whom Gardner effectively replaced in the outfield, with Ichiro Suzuki shifting to right field, said that he expects to be in the lineup.
"You want to be in there, but skip is the manager, and I back his decision," Swisher said. "You bring a little speed in the lineup with Gardy coming in there. I'm going to come back to the ballpark and be ready to go."
Girardi puts winning before massaging egos
DETROIT -- There may now be some bruised egos in the Yankees' clubhouse, but manager Joe Girardi believes that his benched stars will be able to produce if and when they are called upon.
Girardi said that he spoke to both Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher before Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Tigers in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, telling them that they would need to remain ready in case he asked them to get into the game.
"These guys want to be in there, and I understand that," Girardi said. "Like I've said, these are hard decisions, but they're decisions that I felt I needed to make."
The benching was the first of the postseason for Swisher, who is 4-for-26 in seven playoff games. Rodriguez sat for the second time, having also been on the bench for the deciding Game 5 of the AL Division Series against the Orioles. Girardi has pinch-hit for Rodriguez in three other games.
"We're just trying to find a lineup that works," Swisher said after Game 3. "I thought it was a great lineup. I wasn't in it, but you've got to back your guys and support your teammates. The guys played well; we just came up a little short."
Swisher was on deck to pinch-hit for Russell Martin when Raul Ibanez struck out to end the game against Detroit lefty Phil Coke. Girardi said he didn't consider using Rodriguez to pinch-hit for Ibanez against the lefty because the Tigers would have then brought in right-hander Joaquin Benoit.
"Ibanez has been one of our best hitters down the stretch here," Girardi said.
Girardi said that if he had to choose between keeping a healthy relationship with a player or winning a game, he would always pick winning. But he knows he may be losing some of his players, particularly Rodriguez, who remains under contract through 2017.
"Of course that's something that you have to worry about, but I don't think you can really worry about it today," Girardi said. "Relationships go through their up and down periods, no matter who you are, and you have a chance to rebuild them."
Girardi also said that his decision to not start Rodriguez was strictly related to performance and had nothing to do with Tuesday's report in the New York Post that said Rodriguez was interacting with female fans behind the Yankees' dugout in Game 1.
During the season, Girardi often defended lineup choices by saying that he believed in his players' track records. But now, with the Yankees facing elimination, he's working with a much shorter leash, recognizing that such moves could come at a cost in the future.
"At the end of the day, we have to put all that stuff aside and try to put our best foot forward every single day -- regardless of hurting feelings or not," general manager Brian Cashman said. "That stuff will play itself out, one way or the other. I can't predict it, but I respect it if someone is upset. I have no problem with that."
Captain Derek Jeter was seen by foot and ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson on Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C., and will not travel with the Yankees during the ALCS. The Yankees are waiting to learn if surgery will be necessary, though they continue to expect Jeter to be ready for Spring Training.
Robinson Cano's 0-for-29 skid -- snapped by a ninth-inning single off Phil Coke on Tuesday -- may have been a single-season playoff record, but he's not alone in Yankees history in weathering a rough October. Wade Boggs, Frank Crosetti, Whitey Ford and Dave Winfield each compiled 0-for-22 postseason streaks, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The MLB postseason record is 42 straight hitless at-bats by Mariners catcher Dan Wilson from 1995-2000.