If anyone learns that his or her favorite team went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, that person generally expects to learn that the team in question lost.
Somehow, though, improbably enough, the Yankees did just that today and emerged with a win. Powered by an unearned run and five home runs into what is quickly becoming the right field power alley, the Yankees escaped a terrible start by Joba Chamberlain to record their first win at new Yankee Stadium. The team, by the way, is now 1-for-20 with runners in scoring position over their last two games.
Of course, as the Baseball Gods would write it, Derek Jeter was the man responsible for the win. In the 8th inning, he lifted a Jensen Lewis offering into the right field seats for the Yanks’ fifth home run — and sixth run — of the day. It would be just enough as the Yanks, in front of a less-than-full house, escaped a rough ninth inning by Mariano Rivera to win 6-5.
The story of the game in the early going was Joba Chamberlain. While Chamberlain five days ago was efficient with his pitches, today, he was woefully off his game. He needed 93 pitches to get 14 outs and threw 47 of them — more than half — out of the strike zone. His release point was, as this pitch f/x graph shows, widely inconsistent. (Here is Sunday’s for comparison’s sake.)
By the time Joe Girardi mercifully yanked Joba from the game, he was on the wrong end of a 5-3 score. He had given up six hits and five walks over 4.2 innings, and Yankee starters have now issued 10 walks in their last 10.2 innings while racking up just eight strike outs.
The bullpen though did its job this time. One day after getting shellacked in a 10-2 drubbing, the pen responded with 4.1 scoreless innings. Phil Coke, Jonathan Albaladejo, Brian Bruney and Mariano Rivera combined for three hits and five strike outs over the final frames of the game. Once again, the pen performed the better half of its Jekyll-and-Hyde act the day after a poor outing. Bruney threw BBs again, throwing eight of 11 pitches for strikes and K-ing two.
Offensively, the Yanks couldn’t get much going today, and it didn’t seem as though Rivera would have that chance to close it out. They left two on in the first, the bases loaded in the fifth, two on in the sixth and two on in the seventh. At no point did any member of the Yanks hit with a runner in scoring position. It was shaping up to be a futile offensive effort.
But the Bronx Bombers showed why they earned that nickname. Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira became the first duo to hit back-to-back jacks at the new park. The much-maligned Melky Cabrera hit his first home run of the season; Robbie Cano added a blast; and Derek Jeter sealed the game with a solo shot with two outs in the 8th. Chicks — and fans looking for a W — dig the long ball.
These two teams will do it again tomorrow afternoon as the winless Fausto Carmona (0-2, 9.00) takes on the winless Chien-Ming Wang (0-2, 28.93). The Yanks’ sinkerball will need a very solid start to quell a skeptical fan base. Hopefully, more of that fanbase than the 45,101 who saw today’s game will be there but more on that later. For now, we’ll just enjoy what should be the first of many Derek Jeter-inspired victories at the new Yankee Stadium.