It was only one game, but Wednesday night’s 8-5 loss to the Texas Rangers was especially frustrating for the Yankees on a couple of fronts.
Of course, a win would have been nice to take some of the heat off of the organization after a wild day that was dominated by injury news and A-Rod nonsense. But it was also a tough day for two pitchers that were considered to be critical parts of the Yankees success coming into the season.
“Same old story for me right now every time I pitch,” Andy Pettitte said. “It’s frustrating. Guys battled and fought back, and it was good to see them do that, but unfortunately we couldn’t hold them down. They’ve got a good lineup, and we weren’t able to get it done.”
Pettitte didn’t pitch all that poorly, but a four-run third for the Rangers turned out to be his undoing. He’s now lost three consecutive starts, and it seemed like it was weighing on him after the game.
A pitcher who has been struggling even more so recently is Joba Chamberlain, who promptly served up a two-run homer to Nelson Cruz in the seventh just after the Yankees had cut their deficit to one-run. He has now allowed at least a run in five of his last seven appearances.
“It’s frustrating, and letting the team down is the worst part,” Chamberlain said. “I know I suck right now. There’s no getting around it, so you have to figure out what you can do to make it better.”
• The Yankees got on the board first thanks to Lyle Overbay, who hit a solo homer on the same day that he found out he’ll likely be the Yankees’ everyday first baseman for the remainder of the season. But Texas responded in the third thanks to some sloppy D and a string of hits. After Leonys Martin led off with a single and Ian Kinsler walked, Elvis Andrus laid down a sac bunt and reached safely on an error to load the bases. Cruz struck out, but Adrian Beltre and A.J. Pierzynski each followed with two-run doubles to give the Rangers a 4-1 lead. “Obviously, just to Beltre a bad pitch. That was it. I got him 0-2 and tried to elevate a fastball to him, and I didn’t get it quite high enough. He’s a good hitter,” Pettitte said. “I made a good pitch to Pierzynski, and he must have been sitting on it. He was all over that ball. It was down and away and out of a strike zone – a cutter. It’s a pitch that I’m hoping I could get a swing-and-miss on, or get an out.”
• Other than that one inning, Pettitte didn’t pitch all that poorly. He gave the Yankees six innings and pitched a season-high 107 pitches, striking out six and allowing three earned runs on six hits and two walks. But for Pettitte, it’s all about winning, and that’s what really stung him. “I feel real good, it’s just frustrating,” he said. “You want to win. You want to help this team win. A big win last night for us, and you’re hoping that you can come out tonight and put up some zeros. And I’m not putting up zeros for us.”
• Pettitte reiterated several times that he’s feeling good, which gives him optimism that things will turn around if he stays the course. It’s not like he’s been getting shelled; he’s just being giving up more runs than he’s accustomed to giving up. “Right now, it’s just not happening for me,” he said. “And it’ll turn. I just want my body to continue to feel good, and if I keep throwing the ball the way that I am now, I know that it’s going to turn around. It’s just a matter of staying positive… This ain’t nothing I haven’t been through before.”
• On an odd play in the third, Martin bunted back towards the pitcher’s mound, and when Pettitte picked it up, his arm collided with Jayson Nix on the throw attempt. It looked pretty violent and the Steve Donohue came out to check on Pettitte, but it seems like Nix was the one who was more shaken up. “It did at first just because I hit him,” Pettitte said when asked if it was a scare. “I mean, I threw a ball as hard as I could to first and I hit him good. I knocked the wind out of him. I was fortunate that I didn’t hurt my arm. I felt fine. That wasn’t an issue at all.”
• The Yankees rallied back in the sixth with four straight hits to start the inning. Brett Gardner reached on an infield single, which was followed by a double from Ichiro Suzuki . That prompted Texas manager Ron Washington to bring in lefty reliever Robbie Ross to face left-handed batters Robinson Cano and Travis Hafner, but both came through with RBI singles to cut the deficit to 4-3. The bases were reloaded when Zoilo Almonte walked with one out, but Nix grounded into an inning-ending double play.
• With Pettitte at 107 pitches, Joe Girardi opted to go to Joba to pitch the seventh. Every time he comes in recently you can’t help but notice this feeling of impending doom, and the fans started getting antsy with him right away. He served up a two-run homer to Cruz, which sucked the air out of the place and shut down the Yankees comeback hopes as quickly as they had started. “Just fastball command,” Joba said of his issues recently. “I’m obviously being aggressive, but being up in the zone. These guys are really good, and you can’t be up in the zone. They make you pay for your mistakes. You have to get back out there and figure out what you can do to change it.”
• Joba also spoke about needing to look at his delivery and make sure that his mechanics are in order. He stressed that he feels fine, but pretty much everything seemed to hang up in the zone. “Just go look at film and see if we’re drifting, not getting over the rubber, and just work on those things. Be positive and know you’ve done it before,” he said. “Obviously, if that was bad mechanically, my velo would be down, and it’s continued to get better. We have to figure out what the problem is and fix it quick.”
• With others in the pen pitching well (personally, I think that Boone Logan should be the go-to guy in the seventh if he isn’t needed to face a lefty earlier in the game), Girardi was asked why he continues to go to Chamberlain in close games. “I don’t know,” he said. “Somehow, we have to find a way to get him going. That’s the bottom line. This guy needs to help us, and to me his stuff is too good not to help us. But right now, he’s making mistakes.”
• One guy who continues to play well is Ichiro. He had the big hit last night, and went 3 for 4 tonight. His two-run homer in the seventh brought the Yankees back to within one run, but they gave the Rangers two runs back in the ninth.
• Lastly, with his six strikeouts tonight, Andy Pettitte improved his total to 1,956 as a Yankee, which puts him one behind Whitey Ford for the most in franchise history. “That’s cool,” he said. “Anytime you tie Whitey in anything, that’s good stuff. That means I’ve been around here for a long time and I’m getting old. That’s what it means. But it’s an honor to be able to have played as long as I have here, and I feel very blessed and fortunate. I don’t take it for granted. I appreciate it a whole lot, that’s for sure.”
Associated Press photos