Late this season, even as other relievers moved to the top of the bullpen pecking order, manager Joe Girardi said that Joba Chamberlain would have to get big outs eventually. Chamberlain was basically a mopup man at the time, so Girardi’s words were easy to dismiss as little more than a manager trying to build up a struggling reliever.
Tonight the Yankees really did ask Chamberlain to get big outs in a tight game. The result: Three hits, three runs, not a single out, and a two-run game blown out of reach.
“He’s been throwing the ball pretty well,” Girardi said. “I wasn’t sure if we were going to use Robertson today. I was a little worried about using him with what he’s been coming off, he’d been throwing the ball pretty well, but he didn’t do it tonight. … I had Cabral up. I’m not sure what we’re going to get from him. He’s a young kid that hasn’t been put into a lot of these situations, and I went with the experience.”
“He’s been struggling a little bit lately too,” Girardi said. “Joba’s been throwing the ball pretty decent, so I went with him.”
Chamberlain had pitched a hitless inning in each of his previous two outings. The three outings before that: Three runs in 3.1 innings. The five outings before that: 5.1 scoreless.
“It’s kind of the way it’s gone,” Chamberlain said. “You have a couple of good ones and then give up the house. Obviously I let my team down.”
Clearly not all of this loss falls on Girardi or Chamberlain. The offense was awful again. Hiroki Kuroda was — once again — not nearly as good as he was in the middle of the season. It was another bad game, all around.
But Chamberlain… Before tonight, he actually had a 2.95 ERA with a .206 opponents’ batting average in the second half, but you’re forgiven if you hadn’t noticed. He’d also walked a lot of guys and given up some homers, both of which were problems tonight, in what might have been his last meaningful appearance in pinstripes.
“There’s not situation they can put me in that’s going to catch my by surprise,” Chamberlain said. “… I didn’t do my job.”
• This offense looked pretty good for a while when guys were healthy and the lineup had depth, but without Brett Gardner or Derek Jeter, and with both Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano less than 100 percent, the Yankees haven’t been able to score consistently. They’ve scored less than three runs in four of their past five games. “You have to make up ground, and we’re just not swinging the bats right now,” Girardi said. “We’re struggling offensively, so hopefully going home with help us. … It’s hard to put my finger on it. We had the one inning basically the whole time here that we put some hits together. We just didn’t get a lot of hits.”
• Why keep playing Alex Rodriguez when he’s hitting like this? Girardi is clearly going with the most talented bat and hoping that talent will outweigh the injury. “I think you just keep running him out there,” Girardi said. “I think that’s what you do.”
• Chamberlain on the home run pitch to Adam Lind: “We got ahead early, then left one over the middle of the plate.”
• Chris Stewart on the Lind at-bat: “He’s a good fastball hitter, and we’re trying to make him hit one of our sliders. Unfortunately, he just kind of hung one.”
• Girardi called Kuroda’s start “gutsy” because of all the base runners and relatively few runs. “I didn’t feel any different, but I was able to get big outs later in innings,” Kuroda said. “… I changed pitch selection compared to earlier innings, so that might have something to do with it.”
• Final word goes to Stewart: “There’s a lot of games (this road trip) we could have won if things had could have gone differently. A couple of times balls didn’t go our way, but this series right here we just didn’t take care of business. We had definite opportunities to go out there and win all three games. We just let it get away.”
Associated Press photos