It is ironic that, in a game in which Joba Chamberlain started and allowed just one earned run, the Yanks’ controversial fifth starter would be done in by his bullpen. But it wasn’t just the bullpen that did in Joba and the Yanks; it was Joe Girardi, making unnecessary moves in bad situations, who cost the Yanks a sweep and a chance to go two games over .500.
The Yankees got off to a quick start against Gil Meche and the Royals today. Brett Gardner singled, stole second, advanced to third on a ground-out and scored on a wild pitch. 1-0 Yanks.
Meanwhile, before the rain came, Joba was rolling. He retired the first seven Royals he faced before John Buck blasted a home run on a hanging slider. In the 4th with the rain pouring down, the wheels came off a bit. Joba walked David DeJesus and hit Mark Teahen with a pitch. While he then got two quick outs, Alberto Callaspo rolled a ball toward Robinson Cano. Nick Swisher, overly enthusiastically filling in for an injured Mark Teixeira, ranged too far to his right, missed the ball and screened out Robinson Cano for a costly error. Two unearned runs would score. 3-1 Royals.
That score would stand until the seventh. Following a few hits and Melky Cabrera’s second double play of the game, the Yanks would take the lead 4-3, and it seemed as though the formula would work. Maybe Joba, at only 88 pitches, could toss another inning. Maybe the Yanks would turn to Brian Bruney, Damaso Marte and Mariano Rivera to steal a game from Gil Meche. It wasn’t meant to be.
Bruney dispatched with the Royals in the 7th. Marte induced two quick fly outs in the 8th, and then, Joe Girardi stopped managing and started overmanaging. The Royals pinch hit Billy Butler for Mike Jacobs. Butler, a righty, hasn’t been a terrible hitter in his career. He’s not really a huge power threat, and while he does hit lefties well, he’s 1 for 17 on the season. He wasn’t really a huge threat at that point, and the Yanks have expressed the view that Marte can get out lefties as well as righties.
Instead of allowing Marte to get Butler, yanking him for, ideally, Rivera if Butler were to reach, Joe Girardi pulled Marte and turned to Jose Veras. It was a disaster. Veras inexplicably walked Butler. Girardi then yanked Veras for Phil Coke. The lefty gave up three straight hits to the bottom third of the Royals’ order, and the Yanks were suddenly, shockingly down 6-4, still with two outs in the 8th, still with no sign of Mariano Rivera.
While the folks who argue that Joba should be in the pen will point to this game as Exhibit A in the 2009 season, the reality is that Joe Girardi should take the loss. There is no reason to be paying Damaso Marte $4 million a year if he can’t be left in to face a weak-hitting member of the Royals with two outs and no one in a one-run game. That’s simply inexplicable overmanaging.
Last season, when entering the 8th with a lead, the Yanks were 73-2. This year, they’re 3-1 and lost a game they should have won. This one hurts with a very good Tampa Bay team and Scott Kazmir on tap tomorrow.