NEW YORK -- As promised, when the Nationals clinched, Davey Johnson rested his Nationals regulars on Tuesday, even with the best record in the National League at stake.
Joe Girardi insists he wouldn't do the same thing.
Girardi's Yankees began play Tuesday with a chance to clinch the American League East, if they beat the Red Sox and the Orioles lose at Tampa Bay. The Yankees entered play Tuesday tied with the Rangers for the AL's best record, but holding the tie-breaker.
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"I think [the top seed] is important," Girardi said. "I think it's very important. Unless I thought something was really physically wrong, I would probably play our guys [Wednesday]."
Girardi did hold out the possibility that he wouldn't pitch Hiroki Kuroda, who for now is scheduled to face the Red Sox on Wednesday. If Kuroda pitches Wednesday and the Yankees play the division series that begins Saturday (which they would do if they finish as the second seed), then Kuroda wouldn't be ready until Game 3.
The top seed in the league is worth something. It guarantees you home-field advantage in the ALCS. It also means you open up against the wild-card winner, against a team that will already have used up pitchers in a play-in game Friday.
But the difference between being the first or second seed isn't close to as big as the difference between being a division winner or being the wild card.
It's definitely worth it to go all out to win the division, and Girardi's Yankees have done just that. Because they lost what was once a 10-game lead and because the Orioles have pushed them, Girardi has rightly pushed his regulars all through September.
Now, with what could be a chance to give them an extra day of rest, he's saying he would rather push again and try for the top seed.
Girardi also spent some time Tuesday attempting to defend his decision to allow CC Sabathia to throw 103 pitches in eight innings in a blowout win Monday.
"It's not like I asked him to throw 120 pitches," Girardi said. "Sometimes the more work he gets, the better he is."