Last night’s game was quite similar to Tuesday’s. The Yankees scored in only two frames, and in one they piled it on. It wasn’t quite the 10-run seventh of Tuesday night, but the seven-run fourth was enough to propel the Yankees to a series victory.
Joba Chamberlain pitched his best game of 2009, going seven innings and allowing just one run. There were plenty of encouraging signs from Joba. He struck out six and surrendered only three hits, and kept his pitch count low at 88 (12.6/inning). He threw his fastball between 90 and 95 mph, mostly sitting 92-93. His curve and slider served him well, too.
The Tigers worked him a bit in the bottom of the third, the frame in which he walked three batters. Those were all he’d walk all game. Even in that frame he used just 21 pitches, which is remarkable given the three walks. In a true test for the young starter he faced Miguel Cabrera with the bases loaded and two outs. Big hitter, big spot. After working the count to 2-2, Joba got Miggy to whiff on a curveball. From there Joba cruised, mowing down the next nine Tigers he faced. The sixth was particularly sweet, as it ended after just five pitches. Even after putting two runners on to lead off the seventh, Joba managed to get the next three and used just 11 pitches total in the frame.
That ended Joba’s night, much to the dismay of many fans, myself included. At this stage Joba needs to be building up his pitch counts, and tonight presented an easy opportunity. After the game Girardi said that he did it to get the bullpen some work. “I was going to take him out regardless,” he said. It’s not a huge deal, but Joba’s not always going to have nights as efficient as this. Better to build him up now so he’s used to it when he needs it. It’s not a huge deal, though, and it now amounts to another inning Joba can pitch down the road.
The Yanks struck in the fourth, knocking around Porcello and forcing his ouster. The rally started in a strange manner, a hit and run with Hideki Matsui on first and Jorge Posada at the plate. It worked, as Jorge pulled a single through the right side. What followed was even more absurdity, as Jorge took advantage of not being held on and stole second. It didn’t much matter, though, as Nick Swisher cleared the bases five pitches later.
Melky Cabrera and Ramiro Pena restarted the rally with back to back singles. Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui both doubled, bringing home a combined four runs and extending the Yanks lead to 7-1. That was all the Yanks would need, but Nick Swisher, whose swing makes Earth rotate on its axis, decided he could use another homer. The Yanks threatened for more in the eighth, as Ryan Perry was once again all over the place, but Robinson Cano couldn’t make him pay for walking three straight.
The only blemish on the game was the ninth, which opened with Jon Albaladejo waking Miguel Cabrera on four pitches. By the time Albaladejo recorded the second out the Tigers had already scored a pair of runs. After a single the Tigers had first and third with two outs, which prompted Joe Girardi to go to…Mariano Rivera. It might seem like a strange call, especially in that situation, but Mo hadn’t worked since Friday night. His rust showed, as Curtis Granderson took the second pitch deep to right for a three-run shot, bringing the Tigers within two. Placido Polanco was kind enough to pop out to second to end it right there.
This is the kind of starting pitching the Yanks thought they’d have all season. If it can keep rolling, and if the offense can keep stringing together hits, our fears may be calmed over the next few days and weeks. The reeling Angels are headed to the Bronx for four games over the weekend. A.J. Burnett kicks things off tomorrow night against Angels No. 9 prospect Anthony Ortega.