The only thing better than a pitchers’ duel is having one on back-to-back days. Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia battled on Saturday, with Sabathia prevailing in a 2-1 Yankees victory. On Sunday Joba Chamberlain and Edwin Jackson each brought his best stuff, and again the Yankees found themselves on the heavy end of a 2-1 game. It was their third straight victory, sealing a sweep of the first-place Detroit Tigers.
Like Sabathia on Saturday, Joba ran into some trouble in the first inning, using 23 pitches and allowing two baserunners. Still, he allowed no damage. He rebounded a bit earlier than CC, though, using only 11 pitches to set the Tigers down in the second. Chamberlain would roll from there, his only blemish a solo home run to Clete Thomas. He even survived a first and third, one out, situation by getting Miguel Cabrera to pop up and Marcus Thames to strike out.
It was really the type of start we’ve expected of Joba all along. He tossed 107 pitches through six and two thirds, striking out eight and walking three (he also plunked Polanco). Sixty eight of those 107 pitches were strikes, for a solid 63.5% strike rate. He did it mostly with a fastball, throwing 71 of them, 20 curves, 12 sliders, and four changes. It was a decent mix of pitches especially because Joba, for the most part, kept his curve right around the zone.
Addressing the controversial subject, Joba’s velocity, he averaged just a hair under 93 with his fastball, but that’s a bit misleading. According to Gameday he was throwing mostly 91, 92 mph fastballs in the first three innings, touching 93 sometimes. Then Clete Thomas hit that homer to lead off the fourth, to which Joba reacted by ripping off 94, 95, 96 mph fastballs, topping out at just a hair under 97. It also seemed like he was a bit more conscious of his velocity, as he kept it down for eight and nine hitters Gerald Laird and Ramon Santiago, while ramping it up for Granderson and the heart of the order.
Joba had his best stuff today and showed us what he can do when he does. Now it’s a matter of repeating it. We’ve seen this a few times before from him this season, each time followed by mediocre or poor starts. He’s not going to have starts like this every time out, not at this point in his career. We can only hope that they become more frequent with time. It’s hard to remain patient when he pitches this well one game and gets bombed in another, but it’s part of a young pitcher’s development. And remember, as both Girardi and our friend Rebecca have mentioned, Joba is not an experienced pitcher. He’s had limited experience in the minors, and was basically thrown into the fire in New York. He still needs time to develop. Along the way we’re seeing glimpses of what can be.
On the offensive side, there wasn’t much to remark on. Both A-Rod and Teixeira did a good job of going down and getting a pitch they liked, each parking it beyond the wall, accounting for both Yankees runs. The Yankees had a few chances, five to be exact, with runners in scoring position, but they couldn’t get any of them home. Robinson Cano left three on the pond, grounding to first with Matsui on second in the fourth, and lining out to short with runners on second and third in the sixth. That last one was well hit and looked like it had a shot, but it landed in Santiago’s glove nonetheless.
Not only did the Yankees win all three games of the Tigers series, but all three were highly enjoyable. They were close all the way, and for the most part were pitchers’ affairs. We saw Phil Hughes plow through the Tigers, striking out eight in three innings of work. He laid a perfect bridge to Mo in two of the games, while Aceves took care of business on Saturday. It’s what happens when your starters go deep into games: you don’t need to call on David Robertson in a tight spot.
Next up is Baltimore, and the offense better be ready. Up first is rookie David Hernandez, who has been pretty decent lately, but then come Rich Hill and Jason Berken, both of whose ERAs suffer from hyperinflation. We also get our first look at Sergio Mitre on Tuesday.