For the second straight night, the Yankees starter could not get through the fifth inning. Friday night it was inexperienced starter Joba Chamberlain. Saturday it was well-experienced starter Andy Pettitte. His short start exposed the weaknesses in the bullpen. It was more than the powerhouse Yankees offense could overcome.
Pettitte allowed six runs, all earned, and all in the fourth and fifth innings. A double and a single to lead of the inning accounted for the sole run in the fourth, but Pettitte recovered to get the next three and keep the game at 4-1. In the fifth, it would all come undone.
Even with the shaky start to the fourth, Pettitte had still allowed just two hits through four. In the fifth it was amazing that he managed even one out. That was on a Chone Figgins grounder into a fielder’s choice. Everyone else Pettitte faced in the inning either singled or homered.
David Robertson didn’t help matters, coming into the middle of an inning and again let those inherited runners score. He added a run of his own, and in the end was bailed out when Howie Kendrick slid past second base on what would have been a successful steal attempt.
He actually recorded three outs in the sixth, but he buried a curve for strike three so deep to Reggie Willits that it went all the way to the backstop. That led to a run when Eric Aybar, who had a .325 OBP and .374 SLG heading into the series, tripled, his third hit of the day. It took Brett Tomko to finish off the side.
Another dropped third strike allowed the Angels to cushion their lead in the bottom of the eighth. With Reggie Willits on second — due to a sloppy throw over to first by Phil Coke — Chone Figgins swung and missed at a ball in the dirt. Jorge didn’t get all the way down, and the ball bounced through his legs and to the backstop, putting runners on first and third.
This set the stage for Bobby Abreu to drive in an insurance run with a sac fly to deep center. That made it 11-8 Angels, but it would end there. The umps blew yet another call when Chone Figgins slid in safely to second. The replay showed Cano tagging Figgins on the helmet before he touched the bag, but that apparently doesn’t matter any more. That would have been the third out, but the blown call led to three more Angels runs.
As an aside, these blown calls are getting a bit ridiculous. They’re not the reason the Yankees are losing games, but they’re sure not helping. While it’s unlikely they’d overcome an 11-8 deficit in the ninth, it’s almost impossible to come back from 14-8. The only thing keeping them in the game at that point is the old Yogi saying that it ain’t over ’til it’s over.
A big — nay, astronomical — part of the problem is that the bullpen has been overexposed lately. Bullpens, as we all know, are volatile, and to give them four, five innings per game is going to hurt you. Here are the starters and their innings over the past three games:
7/9: Aceves 3.1 IP
7/10: Joba 4.1 IP
7/11: Pettitte 4.1 IP
The Yankees bullpen had been great in June and the start of July, but there are few, if any, bullpens in the league which could withstand such a toll. The key to the bullpen before this stretch has been riding the hot hand. The more they have to pitch, the less able the manager is to do that.
It’s sad, really, that poor pitching overshadowed the Yanks jumping out to an early lead. Not only that, but they put up some runs even when the game got out of hand — started to get it back in hand, even, until the eighth. The offense did more than enough, even though Teixeira, Posada, and Damon went hitless.
There is no silver lining to this game. The Yankees lost and they lost bad. The only saving grace is that they have their ace taking the hill heading into the break. That, and they’re still in good position, even if they lose the game. CC Sabathia vs. John Lackey tomorrow.