Remember when a whole bunch of New York sports writers and talk-show hosts were flipping out over Joba Chamberlain’s move to the starting rotation? Remember how Joba was supposed to be oh-so-much more valuable to the Yankees as a one-inning set-up man than as an elite starter he was projected to be? Well, I don’t hear those voices anymore. That’s for sure.
Tonight, it was all about Justin Chamberlain. For seven innings, Joba powered his way past Boston’s offensive powerhouse in Fenway Park. He outpitched Josh Beckett and delivered the Wild Card-leading Red Sox just their 12th home loss of the season. The final score, of course, had to be 1-0.
Chamberlain was, in a word, masterful. Over seven innings — his longest outing as a starter — he threw 68 of 102 pitches for strikes and allowed just three hits, all singles, and one walk while striking out nine. Only two Boston runners made it to second, one on a steal and one was forced there on a walk. And until Kyle Farnsworth came in to attempt the eighth inning, the Red Sox never had much of anything going.
The best part of the outing had to be the Kevin Youkilis at-bat in the seventh. Youk and Joba, BFF’s since last season, were facing off when Joba fell behind 2-0. Chamberlain’s next pitch sailed up and over Youkilis’ head, and the feisty first baseman was so unhappy that, three pitches after jawing at Joba, he whiffed on one of the nastiest sliders Joba’s ever thrown. Game, set, match.
On the other side of the ball, Josh Beckett was good but not good enough. He too threw seven innings and allowed 10 baserunners, but the Yanks, Beckett’s strike-out victims six times, could push across just one run. Amusingly, that run came off a Jason Giambi infield single hit just to the right spot against the shift. When your opponents don’t score, one run is all you need.
The Yankees, of course, with Joba starting, ran into trouble in the eighth inning. How ironic. The recently reliable Kyle Farsworth allowed a hit, recorded an out and gave up an infield single before giving way to Mariano. It happens. The Sandman was more than happy to clean up Kyle’s mess, dispatching Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia to end the inning.
The game had to end with a nasty cutter from Mariano River, and as J.D. Drew watched strike three sail into Jose Molina’s glove, all was right in Yankee Universe. Two reinforcements are Bronx-bound; Joba finds himself with a 2.30 ERA as a starter with 63 K’s and 23 walks in 54.2 innings; and the Yanks are just two back of Boston, breathing heavily down their necks.