- Alan Schwarz, MLB
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NEW YORK -- Nick Johnson went 3-for-4 and scored twice for the Yankees on Sunday night, showing the stroke that has been missing for most of this postseason. His reward? Sitting on the bench.
That's the way it goes when the World Series moves to the National League park -- Pro Player Stadium, in this case -- and you play the same position as a $17 million superstar coming off 41 home runs. Although he's struggling himself this October, Jason Giambi will be the Yankees' first baseman on Tuesday night for Game 3 of the World Series. And without the DH, Johnson will sit.
The move certainly makes sense on offense. But with the Marlins' top-of-the-lineup waterbugs wreaking havoc with their bunts and baseline sprints, this decision could wind up playing out more in the field than at the plate.
"I've been taking grounders during the whole (postseason)," said Giambi, who hasn't played defense since Sept. 23. "You go out on the field and make the plays. You make the plays and go from there."
Neither Johnson nor Giambi is producing much offensively this October. Johnson is batting .213 with little power. Giambi has a .229 average with almost all of his power coming with his two home runs in Game 7 against the Red Sox.
He was temporarily moved from third to seventh in the lineup before returning to the No. 3 hole on Sunday. There also are concerns that Giambi, who has struggled against 90-mph fastballs and above, will be particularly vulnerable against Game 3 Marlins starter Josh Beckett.
"Nick Johnson can do a lot of things," said Yankees manager Joe Torre, who didn't hesitate in making his choice. "But Jason Giambi, he's the guy that we really need to have in the middle of the lineup whether he's getting a walk, whether he's getting a base hit. All those numbers, even though they're not showing up yet, are still pretty damn impressive."
One National League scout didn't disagree with the move, citing Giambi's pure power, but foresaw the Marlins getting some of those bases back when Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo come to the plate. Pierre has already bunted for hits in each game of the World Series.
"I think it will cause problems for (Giambi)," the scout said. "Johnson has real good hands and is a pretty good thrower, too. Giambi is definitely below-average and hasn't played in a long time."
Giambi said he would seek advice from Johnson about defending Florida's speedsters.
"I've watched where Nick is playing defensively," he said, "and will talk about things we want to change or do better."
Johnson agreed that the one team that would put pressure on a first baseman was the Marlins; imagine how tempting a defensive triangle of David Wells on the mound (falling off toward third), Alfonso Soriano at second and Giambi at first will be for Pierre and Castillo if Torre keeps his configuration for Game 5.
"Everyone knows that those guys are extremely fast," Johnson said. "If Pierre gets a good bunt down, he's pretty much got it. It's hard to defend. You just try to pinch him at the corners and hope he lays down a bad bunt, so you can defend it a little bit better than we have the last couple of times.
"If he gets it, go straight to the ball. If it's close to the line, get it and tag him because the pitcher's not gonna get there."
On the other side of the field, Florida will lose the starting services of Juan Encarnacion, who led the Marlins with 94 RBIs as their right fielder this season. He has been squeezed out essentially by Jeff Conine, who originally arrived in Florida on Aug. 31 as a lineup replacement for injured third baseman Mike Lowell and has hit too well (.364 this postseason with a .944 OPS) to sit after Lowell's return. Conine was the DH in New York but will play left field in Florida, with rookie Miguel Cabrera moving to right field and Encarnacion heading to the bench.
This lineup, which McKeon used in the last four games of the NLCS as the Marlins stormed back against the Cubs, clearly does not sit well with Encarnacion.
"I'm not happy with that," said Encarnacion, who was 2-for-6 with a walk as Florida's DH. "I've been playing all year. I worked for this. I played injured. I helped us get to the point where we are right now. And they never explained to me why (I'm not starting). It makes you more upset about it."
Of course, without the DH, the pitchers will hit, presumably giving the Marlins an advantage. But interestingly, when or if the Series moves back to New York for Games 6 or 7, having the DH will not necessarily favor the Yankees -- if history is any indication.
Although one could presume that AL clubs are built for the DH while NL clubs are not, NL designated hitters have out-hit their counterparts by a wide margin since the DH was first used in World Series play in 1976. American League DHs have hit .223-6-30 in 70 games, slugging a shockingly low .338, while the National League has hit .271-10-36 and slugged .442.
Then again, that won't be an issue until Saturday. For now Encarnacion sits, and Giambi grabs his glove.
Alan Schwarz is the senior writer of Baseball America magazine and a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
In Florida, Jason Giambi will play first, weakening the Yankee defense against the Marlins' speed.