It was the best of Joba, it was the worst of Joba.
For five batters tonight, Joba was as bad as
the Yankee bullpen any pitcher can be. He allowed the first five Red Sox to reach base and four them of them came around to score. It seemed like it was going to be another one of those nights against the Red Sox in the Bronx.
But then, something clicked. Aided by a generous outside strike zone with left-handers up, Joba Chamberlain put on a pitching clinic at Yankee Stadium tonight. He became the first Yankee to strike out 12 opponents at home since Mike Mussina did it in 2003, but he was more impressive than that. He retired 17 Red Sox tonight, 12 of them by the good ol’ K. After allowing that fifth first-inning hit, Joba gave up just one more hit over his final 5.2 innings.
After his 108th pitch — a third strike to Jeff Bailey — Joe Girardi came out to get Joba. The Yanks’ youngster was dealing at the time. His first few pitches — the ones the Red Sox hit — clocked in at around 90 miles per hour. As the game progressed, his velocity improved and the bite on his slider grew sharper. He left throwing in the 95/96 range and made an emphatic statement. “I am Joba. Hear me roar.”
Unfortunately for the Yanks, as good as Joba was, those four runs in the first still counted, and the Yanks’ offense couldn’t find a way to catch up. In the third inning, the Bombers gave it the old college try. Jose Molina and Derek Jeter singled, and Johnny Damon hit a three-run home run into right field. The Yanks had closed the gap to one, but Damon’s home run would be the only Yankee hit with runners in scoring position.
Over the next few innings, the Yanks threatened but could not deliver. In the bottom of the sixth, with Nick Swisher on first, Melky Cabrera hit a double that unfortunately bounced off the spring-loaded warning track and into the stands. Had the ball stayed in play, the Yanks would have tied the game. Alas, it was not meant to be. Ramiro Peña struck out, and Jose Molina grounded out to end the threat.
Meanwhile, the bullpen tried to keep things close. Jose Veras and a very effective Phil Coke each recorded two outs. Apparently, though, Coke had reached his 11-pitch ceiling, and in the eighth, Joe Girardi called upon his favorite bullpen arm, Jonathan Albaladejo. Peña made an error at third that led to a pair of unearned runs, and the Yanks’ chances faded.
In the ninth, Mark Melancon made things exciting but for all the wrong reasons. He threw 22 pitches without retiring a batter and just 8 of them were in the strike zone. David Robertson allowed just one of his three inherited runners to score, and the revolving door of the bullpen continued to spin.
With this 7-3 loss, the Yankees dropped back to .500. They have lost their first five match-ups against the Red Sox, and in another era, Joe Girardi would be out of a job. That is, at least, what happened to Yogi when his 1985 Yankees pulled off the same underwhelming feat.
Anyway, Joba gave us something to cheer about. He showed why the B-Jobbers who continue to advocate for his move to the bullpen are wrong, and he was as dominant as a pitcher can be. The rest of the team slogged their way to another cold, rainy loss. They’re 1-3 on the month and will face Tampa Bay tomorrow night in a bid to avoid that dreaded drop below .500.