Through much of the season’s first half, the Yankees kept plugging bullpen holes and found the perfect piece every time. Need a rookie long man out of spring training? David Phelps. Mariano Rivera lost for the season? Rafael Soriano. Dave Robertson out for a month? Cory Wade. Wade’s magic worn thin? Cody Eppley. Phelps has to step into the rotation? Derek Lowe.
Thing is, we all know bullpens don’t always work like that. Relievers are a notoriously inconsistent group, and now the Yankees bullpen is starting to show some of those inconsistencies.
“It’s tough to swallow,” Boone Logan said after tonight’s letdown. “We’ve been scuffling as a whole down there lately. You can’t go in there and do your job all year long, you’re going to hit a couple rough patches. You’ve got to grind through it and get through it. We all know that,and talk about it. We’re doing the best we can, it’s just nobody’s going well.”
It was Logan who gave up tonight’s Alexei Ramirez game-winner. It was Logan’s second loss in five days, coming less than a week after he was part of another collective bullpen letdown at home against Texas. Robertson and Soriano are still pitching well in the late innings, but the bridge to the eighth and ninth no longer has that can’t-miss feeling.
“We get the groundball and we’re not quite able to turn the double play,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s a tough double play to turn in that fifth inning, and it just kind of got worse after that, in a sense. The bullpen struggled tonight. It hasn’t been something they’ve done very often this year, so they’ll bounce back.”
One thing about relievers: They’ve all been through something like this. Right or wrong, they all seem to believe they’ll get things straightened out eventually. The Yankees need that to happen, because games like this seem especially hard to follow down the stretch and into the postseason.
“We know it’s part of the game,” Logan said. “That’s the way it works. We’re still a good bullpen. It’s funny how when someone struggles, we all struggle. It seems like we all struggle at the same time. Once we all start getting on a roll, we’ll all get on a roll, and get back to where we need to be.”
• Joba Chamberlain is among the worst bullpen offenders recently, but Girardi once again vowed to keep Chamberlain in the big leagues. Is he concerned? “Long-term, no,”Girardi said. “But short-term, yeah. We have to try to get him right. … He’s got to help us.”
• Here’s Chamberlain: “If I was throwing 90 miles per hour we would have a concern. Obviously the strength and stuff (are good). My slider is 86 to 88 (mph), right where it should be. Fastball is at 95. You know it’s there, now it’s just trying to figure out what in the delivery or what we can do to change things or work on in between and go from there.”
• The good news from tonight, Derek Jeter had another four-hit game, moving into a tie with Eddie Murray for 11th on the all-time hits list. Jeter has 3,255 hits. He also move into sole possession of 13th on the all-time runs scored list, passing Craig Biggio.
• Jeter also homered tonight. It was the 251st of his career, passing Graig Nettles on the Yankees all-time list.
• One last Jeter note: He has a hit in 15 of his last 16 games, batting .403 in that span. He’s also a career .360 hitter against White Sox starter Gavin Floyd (who looked pretty bad tonight).
• Speaking of struggling starters, Freddy Garcia got out of trouble in the first, got out of trouble in the second and got on a terrific roll before letting everything fall apart in the fifth. He’d struck out seven of nine before the last five batters he faced all reached base. “I cannot throw strike after I gave one in the fifth and base hit and whatever, man,” Garcia said. “I cannot make the pitch I needed when I need it. Was at 100 pitch and they decide to take me out. And it’s really frustrating for me because you’ve got a lead, 3-0. And that’s the game, you know. Gavin Floyd pitched two innings or whatever and I was feeling good, man. I don’t know. Something happened. I could not find the strike zone.”
• Garcia said he honestly had no idea what went wrong. “I’ve got command of my fastball, my slider, my split. At that point, I was really comfortable,” he said. “Something happened and I could not find the zone. That’s crazy, but that’s the way it is.”
• Garcia is 1-4 with a 6.81 ERA in his past seven starts against the White Sox.
• Mark Teixeira has a hit in 10 of his past 11 games. He had two hits tonight in his return from a sore wrist.
• Why did Girardi mix and match so much in the fifth rather than give the ball to a long man? “I’m thinking that I’m going for the double play with Eppley,” Girardi said. “We get the ground ball, it’s just not quite at Chavy enough. That’s what I’m trying to do. If he gets the double play, I probably leave him in there to start the sixth and see the right handers. When he doesn’t, you start mixing and matching a little bit. It didn’t work.”
• Logan on his home run pitch to Ramirez: “I threw it right in his bat swing. Those are the balls he hits. I threw him nothing but heaters. Stew wanted to go back in there. I knew he was probably looking slider at one point anyway. It was a bad pitch either way, but I was looking to throw it low in the dirt maybe. I knew he was hacking, I thought he might be looking for it, so I was going to show it to him, but throw it in the dirt. If I walked him, get the next guy. If he swings at it, strike him out. So that was my approach on that pitch.”
• There really wasn’t a good final word on this one, I’ll just go with the obvious from Girardi: “We had some opportunities.”
Associated Press photos