When it was a two-run game and Freddy Garcia was letting it slip away. At that point, Joe Girardi was planning backwards, starting with the end of the game. He thought he could get nine outs from Rafael Soriano and Dave Robertson, and he thought Boone Logan could get the Yankees through the sixth inning. What he needed was a bridge, someone to get the Yankees from Garcia’s rapidly disentigrating start to the most reliable arms in the bullpen.
“I like the way (Joba Chamberlain) had thrown the ball the last two times,” Girardi said. “We don’t have a lot of time, so if you’re going to move up the food chain, you move up pretty quick this time of year.”
Girardi has wanted to use Chamberlain in low-leverage situations, but things finally seem to be coming together for him, and today Chamberlain delivered easily his best outing of the season. He struck out four — tying his career-high for strikeouts in a relief appearance — and gave the Yankees an inning and two-thirds of hitless relief when things could have gone the other way.
“There’s no low-leverage from this point out,” Chamberlain said. “You play this game to be in tight situations. You play this game to be the best, and understand what you have to do. Especially with this lineup, the way they’re swinging the bat, they can change the game with one swing. That’s good for me to know that they’ve seen me a lot, and to be able to make the adjustments that I’ve made thus far.”
The most recent adjustment? Chamberlain moved his hands up a little bit. Nothing big, but one of the small things that sometimes make a big difference for a pitcher that’s been struggling with command and consistency.
“All along, you would see good pitches out of both (his fastball and his slider),” Girardi said. “But the consistency wasn’t there. He would make a mistake. Now I see more consistency.”
Is this an indication that Chamberlain might become more helpful down the stretch? Obviously it could be. This Orioles lineup has proven it can be dangerous, and Chamberlain shut it down in a game that pushed the Yankees back into sole possession of first place.
“I think it all just came together,” Chamberlain said. “Being able to get my delivery down. Getting the mentality of, ‘Get the ball, here it goes, hit it.’ It’s not necessarily that I had been second-guessing myself, but I’d been gone for so long. … You guys put expectations on me, but I put bigger expectations on myself. That was frustrating. I knew the velocity was there, I knew the work I put in, and I wasn’t getting results. But you can’t get frustrated. If I would have rolled over and been done, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing for this team.”
• In the previous month, since August 9, Curtis Granderson was hitting .163. No wonder, then, that Girardi kept him out of the lineup today and yesterday. Off the bench, though, Granderson went 3-for-3 this afternoon with a home run, a double and five RBI. “Don’t know exactly what it is (that’s caused the struggles),” Granderson said. “Physically everything felt fine. Mechanically everything looked right, whether it be from video or from Kevin Long’s perspective. It just felt like, for whatever reason, balls that I was going ahead and attacking, which were strikes, (the swings were) just a tick off for whatever reason.”
• After the game, Mark Teixeira said that he’s not sure how badly his calf is injured right now, but it doesn’t feel as bad as it did when he first strained it two weeks ago. He said he’s not particularly worried about missing the rest of the season — “That would be worst, worst-case scenario,” he said — but he obviously has to make sure it’s better than yesterday.
• Here’s Teixeira: “I thought I could play on it at 80 percent or whatever it was. I couldn’t, so when I come back next time — whether it’s two days or a week, whatever it’s going to be, I don’t know how long it’s going to be — I’ll just make sure that it’s better than 80 percent. Again, it’s not going to be 100 percent, we know that. We just know that I have to make sure I can do a little more.”
• Girardi said that the Yankees are still on rotation for the Boston series, suggesting David Phelps is still the scheduled starter for Wednesday. “That’s something I’ve got plenty of tine to think about over the next 48 hours or so,” Girardi said.
• Speaking of starters, Freddy Garcia seemed to be rolling along before things got out of control in that fourth inning. Could the long top of the fourth have anything to do with it? “Could have been,” Girardi said. “He walked the first guy, then he gets ahead of Hardy 0-2 and hit him with a split. That kind of led to their inning. Betemit hits an 0-2 pitch, so the 0-2 pitches got him in trouble today. That’s not usually something that happens with Freddy.”
• It goes overlooked because the game became a blowout and Chamberlain was so good, but Cory Wade was excellent today. Two hitless innings, no walks, three strikeouts. Haven’t seen him like that in a long, long time.
• Granderson’s home run was his 100th as a Yankee.
• Here’s Granderson talking about his three at-bats, starting with the homer: “Just trying to hit it. No mindset. Not trying to drive it one way or the other. The second at-bat I actually got beat. That was a fastball in that just got up on me and I was able to fist to the other way. The last at-bat was another fastball in, but I was able to pull that to the other side of the field.”
• Alex Rodriguez has a 13-game hitting streak, his longest since 2007. Since coming off the disabled list he’s hitting .308 with seven runs and six RBI in seven games. … Ichiro Suzuki went 8-for-14 with four RBI this series. … Derek Jeter went 9-for-19 with a home run, four RBI and four runs this series.
• Nick Swisher is hitless in his past 28 at-bats.
• The Orioles and Yankees split their season series with nine wins apiece. Each team went 3-6 at its home stadium.
• Might as well give the final word to Jeter: “You always have to try to find some sort of positives, even when you lose. We lost a couple tough games, but we did battle back, we never gave up. We’ve come to expect that. We’d like to have won them (all), but we didn’t. Today was a big one for us. We have a much-needed day off tomorrow, we go to Boston ready to play. I liked the way we played.”
Associated Press photos