Through two innings on Sunday afternoon, the Yankees found themselves enjoying the good life. They had put on 10 runners and had scored four runs while Joba Chamberlain had done a decent job recording the first six outs.
In the third and fourth innings, though, the wheels fell off. In the third, a few hits and a home run brought the Blue Jays to within a run. All three Toronto runs scored with two outs. Worse still was Joba’s climbing pitch count. It took him 65 pitches to record the first nine outs of the game, and again, the Yanks’ youngster couldn’t put hitters away .
Joba would get just two more outs and use 31 more pitches before finding himself out of the game with two outs in the fourth. A single by Lyle Overbay followed by a Vernon Wells fly out set the stage for a play that would echo throughout the game. Cody Ransom misplayed a potential double-play ball, and Joba couldn’t get out of the inning. With two on, Joba got the second out, but then the Blue Jays let loose. Double, single, home run, single. 8-4 Toronto. Joba out; Albaladejo in.
Chamberlain’s final line shows just three earned runs, but the rest of it is downright ugly. He allowed nine hits and a walk in 3.2 innings. He struck out just one and allowed eight runs to score, all with two outs. He threw 86 pitches and wasn’t particularly wild. In fact, a 53/33 ball-to-strike ratio is a bit of an improvement over Joba’s recent efforts.
And yet, this time he couldn’t escape with his 92-mile-per-hour fastball. He couldn’t finish off hitters; he couldn’t finish off innings; and the Blue Jays instead finished him off in short order. As I mentioned last week, Joba’s velocity just isn’t where it needs to be. He threw just a handful of pitches at about 94mph and sat at 92.4, according to Gameday. His peak is down by about 4-5 miles per hour over last year, and his average is down by around 3-4 miles per hour as well.
In the end, today wasn’t a step back for Chamberlain as much as it was a course correction. For weeks, he’s been throwing too many pitches, putting too many runners on and getting away with it. Today, it came back to bite him, and he lost it bad. It’s definitely becoming a problem. Now, the solution to the Joba Problem isn’t to move him to the bullpen. He had these velocity problems in the pen last year, and as Mike will explain on Monday morning, the bullpen should be out of the question. The solution is to find those missing miles-per-hour. Where they are, I do not know.
Meanwhile, with Joba out, the Yankees never said die. Led by a four-hit attack by Derek Jeter and a big three-run shot by Hideki Matsui in the bottom of the disastrous fourth, the Yanks pulled a Roger Federer. After a grueling 3 hour 44 minute affair, the Yanks won by two.
With the offense as loaded as it is, no game is really over for this team, and for that, we can thank the bullpen. Sunday’s game belonged to Al Aceves. He utterly dominated the Blue Jays for four innings and threw just 10 of his 43 pitches out of the strike zone. He allowed one hit and struck out five. I shudder to think where the Yanks would be without him.
Aceves put the exclamation point on a stellar weekend of relief pitching. In three games against the Jays, the Yanks’ pen has twirled 14 innings. They’ve given up one earned run on eight hits and four walks while striking out 12. Considering how badly the pen fared in April, this overhauled bullpen led by Mo, the Phils and Aceves has been all sorts of great.
When the dust settled, the Yanks won. They held steady with Boston who pulled off a late-game comeback of its own, and gained a game on the Rays. They play again at 1:05, and with this win behind us and another game in a few hours, going back to work on Monday isn’t as bad as it could be.